DAMON LINKER JANUARY 9, 2009
The remembrances of Richard John Neuhaus are pouring in. Naturally, most of them, written by friends, admirers, and colleagues, praise his many talents and accomplishments while denying any blemishes. That's the American form of remembrance. Of these, I rather liked Alan Jacobs' appreciation (despite its swipe at my book) because it emphasized ideas instead of politics. I admired and respected that side of the man, too, as I indicated in my own remembrance. Indeed, it was admiration and respect for the intellectual and moral seriousness of Neuhaus and First Things that first drew me to the magazine and convinced me that I could flourish there, just as it was the political side of the journal (and the man) that ultimately convinced me that my original judgment had been a terrible mistake. That's no doubt one reason why my favorite remembrance so far is the one by my friend Russell Arben Fox. Russell begins with a generous appreciation of the man as a whole, critically engages at length with his political project (including my strenuous critique of that project), and then ends with a lengthy quotation from one of the books I praised in the opening paragraph of my own much briefer essay on Neuhaus' life: Death on a Friday Afternoon. That is a proper ending. Long after the ideological battles that consumed so much of Neuhaus' life have faded from memory, Christians and those curious about Christianity will read that book and be deeply stirred by its intellectually and emotionally stunning account of the Crucifixion and its theological meaning. It is very much Richard John Neuhaus at his best.