If nothing else, it is worth subscribing to First Things just for Neuhaus’ regular column (the original “blog” in hardcopy), the Public Square. Only subscribers will be able to get in to that link I just gave, but an online subscription is cheap and it goes to a worthy cause!
Anyway, here’s a taste of the current column for non-subscribers:
1) Neuhaus on preaching
The aim is to try not to be dull. It is an extraordinary act of clerical abuse to bore a captive audience for fifteen minutes, or thirty minutes, as is the case in many Protestant churches. Catholics priests routinely claim that people today have a short attention span. Maybe they do—for the kind of preaching to which they’re accustomed. They have a long enough attention span for many other things that interest them. I don’t think we want to suggest that Protestants are genetically disposed to greater attentiveness. To preach interestingly does not mean to be theatrical but to provide something of intellectual substance. In my experience, people are intensely interested in what Christianity teaches, and why. Which is to say they are intensely interested in doctrine.
2) How many will be saved? (PS. note that Neuhaus is a Catholic)
Better, it seems to me, to stay with the response of Jesus in Luke 13. He does not satisfy the curious by answering the question but says: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Gradations of wickedness are known only to God. All of us are by our sinful nature under the judgment of God and our only hope is the grace revealed in Jesus Christ. As Jesus says in John 10, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” We are to strive for righteousness, but we cannot enter through that narrow door by our own efforts. Whether all will enter by the door who is Christ only God knows. We may hope so, and that is enough.
3) Neuhaus on Mr Rudd’s Apology
One may applaud Mr. Rudd for doing so [for his apology to the Aboriginal people of Australia], even if one wishes that, for such a solemn occasion, he might have come up with something of greater gravitas than “We say sorry.” On the other hand, “We ask you to forgive us” might raise questions about guilt, contrition, and satisfaction, generating suits and countersuits without end. Forgiveness is so very specific.
4) Neuhaus (actually Haught) on the New Atheism:
Marx, Freud, and, above all, Nietzsche are atheists for whom one can have a measure of intellectual respect. They, says John F. Haught in his book God and the New Atheism, understood that when God and religion are eliminated life does not go on as usual. Haught calls them the hard-core atheists. It’s quite a different matter with the new crop of soft-core atheists.
5) On the Good Friday Prayers and the Jewish Protest
Cardinal Walter Kasper, Rome’s point man on Jewish-Christian matters, is just a touch testy about such complaints. “I must say that I don’t understand why Jews cannot accept that we can make use of our freedom to formulate our prayers,” he told an Italian newspaper. “We think that this prayer cannot reasonably be viewed as an obstacle to dialogue since it reflects the faith of the Church. Also, Jews have prayers in their liturgical texts that we Catholics don’t like.” In an interview with Vatican Radio, Kasper said: “The Holy Father wanted to say, ‘Yes, Jesus Christ is the savior of all men, including the Jews.’ This doesn’t mean we are embarking on a mission [to convert Jews]. We are giving witness to our faith.” A very different Jewish response is offered by Hillel Halkin in the New York Sun. “Are [the Jewish protestors] worried that God might actually listen to such a prayer? . . . Are there really so many Jews who are ready to run to the baptismal font with the first knock of a Christian missionary at their door? One doubts it, but, if it’s true, it’s a sad comment not on the predatoriness of Christianity but on the weakness of contemporary Judaism and Jewish identity,” writes Halkin. …It is quite possible, writes Halkin, to respect another religion while believing one’s own is more true. “Jews have always thought this about Judaism and it’s hypocritical of them to want Christians not to think it about Christianity. If anyone cares enough about my soul to pray for me, I might as well take it as a compliment.”
See? Go and subscribe.