Thursday, January 08, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009)

Richard John Neuhaus--the Roman Catholic conservative social critic, author, founder and editor-in-chief of First Things--has died this morning in New York at the age of 72. He was diagnosed with a serious cancer over Thanksgiving of 2008, but over Christmas became seriously ill with a systemic infection. He entered the hospital the day after Christmas.

Here are some of the key years and events in his life

Neuhaus was born and raised in Pembroke, Ottawa, Canada, one of eight children. His father, an American, was a Missouri Synod Lutheran minister.

1950: Neuhaus leaves home at the age of 14.

1960: Ordained as a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus served in the 60s as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church, a largely black congregation in Brooklyn. He was a self-described "revolutionary," protesting the Vietnam War and advocating for other progressive causes.

1973: The Roe v. Wade decision causes Neuhaus to abandon his political liberalism activism in order to become a conservative.

1984: Co-founds and becomes the first director of the Rockford Institute’s Center on Religion and Society. Publishes his book, The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America.

1988: US News & World Report's survey lists him as as one of the 32 most influential intellectuals in America.

1990: 30 years after becoming a Lutheran pastor, Neuhaus converts to Catholicism at the age of 54. He was ordained as a priest a year later. (Here's a letter to Lutherans explaining his conversion, and here's an autobiographical essay he published in First Things, originally delivered at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.)

1990: Neuhaus founds First Things--an ecumenical journal, published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, "whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society."

1994-1995: Neuhaus publishes the controversial document he co-edited with Chuck Colson entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

2005: Time Magazine names Neuhaus one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" (even though he is not an evangelical).