The scourge of the post-60s liberals

Robert George has a fascinating account of how Fr. Richard John Neuhaus went from being a celebrated liberal to a despised conservative. George calls him “the scourge of the post-60s liberals.” It’s a brilliant little essay, and you need to read it. Here are the first two paragraphs:

‘In the early 1970s, Lutheran pastor Richard John Neuhaus was poised to become the nation’s next great liberal public intellectual—the Reinhold Niebuhr of his generation. He had going for him everything he needed to be not merely accepted but lionized by the liberal establishment. First, of course, there were his natural gifts as a thinker, writer, and speaker. Then there was a set of left-liberal credentials that were second to none. He had been an outspoken and prominent civil rights campaigner, indeed, someone who had marched literally arm-in-arm with his friend Martin Luther King. He had founded one of the most visible anti-Vietnam war organizations. He moved easily in elite circles and was regarded by everyone as a “right-thinking” (i.e., left-thinking) intellectual-activist operating within the world of mainline Protestant religion.

‘Then something happened: Abortion. It became something it had never been before, namely, a contentious issue in American culture and politics. Neuhaus opposed abortion for the same reasons he had fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. At the root of his thinking was the conviction that human beings, as creatures fashioned in the image and likeness of God, possess a profound, inherent, and equal dignity. This dignity must be respected by all and protected by law. That, so far as Neuhaus was concerned, was not only a Biblical mandate but also the bedrock principle of the American constitutional order. Respect for the dignity of human beings meant, among other things, not subjecting them to a system of racial oppression; not wasting their lives in futile wars; not slaughtering them in the womb.’

(HT: James Kushiner)

6 Responses to The scourge of the post-60s liberals

  1. Matthew Staton March 20, 2009 at 2:17 pm #


    Kudos on two interesting, thought-provoking posts today.

    (sincere praise – not being sarcastic or anything – sometimes you can’t tell when all you have is the text and no voice inflection)

  2. Denny Burk March 20, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    Thanks, Matthew.

  3. jeff miller March 20, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    Neuhaus’ culturlally/morally conservative position on aborton aside for a moment…I would point out something that sola-scriptura-advocates often overlook when thinking about how the terms “conservative” and “liberal” apply to Roman Catholics and other Traditionalists. Those in catholic churches who are liberal in relation to tradition are actually the one’s who provide the most breathing room for being “correct” in relation to scripture. And traditionalists who are conservative in relation to tradition are those who would put forth the most resistence to scriptural correction.
    For what its worth,

  4. Mason Beecroft March 21, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    I’m sure they are waiting for your scriptural correction.
    For what it’s worth,

  5. jeff miller March 21, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    Hi Mason.

  6. Doug March 21, 2009 at 12:58 pm #


    That was an excellent article you linked us to. Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

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