In the latest issue of Touchstone, William Saunders reviews Fr. Neuhaus’ last book American Babylon: Notes of Christian Exile:
This book, written with all the characteristic wit and insight of Neuhaus at his best, is an extended reflection on, and examination of, what it means to be a Christian in America. It begins with a wonderful chapter on the meaning of “Babylon”—as both “a matter of biblical history and religious metaphor”—to the Jews of the Old Testament, to the early Christians, to the early Americans, and to us today. Along the way, Neuhaus teaches us the literal meaning of the word (from the Akkadiian, meaning “gate of god”) and reminds us that ancient Christian communities suffer there (Iraq) today.
To be a Christian is to be in exile, to be in Babylon, for, as he notes when discussing St. Augustine’s City of God, we live (literally) in an earthly city, but our eternal citizenship is elsewhere. The pagan reality of our exile is startling: “Among the most glaring indications we are in exile is the necessity of contending for the most basic truth of the dignity of the human person.” Babylon consumes its young.
The full review is available for subscribers of Touchstone.