Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square

Owen Strachan | July 24, 2015


Is there any lonelier occupation than that of the Christian intellectual? This species sits between two different bodies, both of which struggle to trust one another: (1) the church, anchored in the Word, and (2) the academy, anchored in credentialed expertise.   

The existential loneliness of the Christian intellectual shouldn’t obscure the fact that this strange species does yet endure, even thrive. In the postwar era, numerous figures attained eminence for their public work. One of the best of this brave band was Richard John Neuhaus, the famed editor of the journal First Things, long the gold standard of religious engagement with the American polis

Incisive New Biography 

Neuhaus (1936–2009) is the subject of a readable and incisive new biography by Randy Boyagoda titled Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square. Boyagoda, who serves as professor of American studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, traces Neuhaus's life chronologically, ranging over his childhood as a conservative Lutheran pastor's son, his iconoclastic seminary experience as a social justice proponent, his early career as a New York City pastor to a humble congregation, and his eventual ascendance as one of the leading public intellectuals in America.

Neuhaus had a knack for ending up in the…


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