Truth That Transforms

    Seven years ago, my friend Richard Neuhaus lay near death. Doctors told him a few months before that he had intestinal cancer. Surgery to remove the tumor had not gone well. As he puts it, it was "an unspeakable mess." He started to hemorrhage right after coming out of surgery. So, the doctors had to open him up again and risk his dying on the table. Fortunately -- providentially -- Neuhaus survived. Then, the next night, while lying in his room, he was "jerked into an utterly lucid state of awareness." He sensed that there were two "presences" there with him. And he heard someone say, "Everything is ready now." My friend has never doubted that he was visited by angels that night, who were prepared to take him home. But he was allowed to stay here, and I think God graciously did that because there is still so much we have to learn from Father Neuhaus. For nearly four decades, Richard John Neuhaus has been setting an example of how Christian faith can transform not only individuals, but society as well. In the 1960s, the Canadian-born minister was the pastor of a mostly black and Hispanic church in Brooklyn. His commitment to biblical standards of freedom and equality led him to become an active participant in the Civil Rights movement, marching alongside Martin Luther King. In the 1970s, Neuhaus, then a Lutheran pastor, was one of the first religious leaders to denounce both the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, and the direction that America's embrace of abortion was heading. In the 1980s, as people denounced the increasing role of Christians in public life, Neuhaus wrote what has now become a classic, The Naked Public Square. In it, he argued that the belief that America is a "secular society" is both "demonstrably false" and "exceedingly dangerous" to the health of American democracy. In the nineties, Neuhaus worked with other Christians, including me, to point out the perilous state of American democracy. His magazine, First Things, featured a controversial symposium called "The End of Democracy?" that challenged the judiciary's usurpation of functions the Founders intended for "We the People" working through our elected representatives. That symposium led to a joint declaration entitled "We Hold These Truths." Fourteen Christian leaders, both Protestant and Catholic, wrote that if American self-government was to survive, it would have to adhere to the moral truths of the Declaration of Independence. We pointed to the "bitter consequences" of separating liberty from moral truths on abortion, crime, drug abuse, pornography, family disintegration, and neglect of the poor. Neuhaus is one of those intellectual leaders whom I have been talking about in recent days -- the ones who are leading a Christian counter-attack against the entrenched secular mindset in academia and other centers of cultural influence. His powerful books and articles have earned him the title of "the modern-day C. S. Lewis, " and his writings are being widely read across America. Neuhaus will be a keynote speaker at our Wilberforce Forum conference in Chicago this coming June. God in his sovereignty is raising up some mighty warriors like Neuhaus -- armed with a biblical view of life and a keen intellect to contend for Christian truth. And this is one reason I think we'll experience a great Christian renewal in this century. For further reference: Cox, Harvey. "Putting God Back in Politics."(Review of Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square.) The New York Times, 26 August 1984; Section 7, Page 11. Neuhaus, Richard John. The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985.


Chuck Colson



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