Friday, October 21, 2005

How I first encountered Richard John Neuhaus... print, that is. Never had the pleasure of meeting him in person.

Anyway, years ago I had the great good fortune to discover The Wittenburg Door, accurately billed as the Christian MAD magazine. (I read it during the editorships of Ben Patterson and Mike Yaconelli, who deserve a post of their own.) The humor was of the pomposity-deflating and self-deriding varieties, usually very well brought off. Example: For the issue featuring an interview with the Argentinian evangelist Juan Carlos Ortiz, they put a profile portrait of a llama on the cover.

Anyway, for the February/March 1985 issue, which you can buy here, they interviewed Richard John Neuhaus, who was still a Lutheran at that time. He wouldn't allow them to photograph him during the interview, instead providing them with a stock photo from one of his lectures. So the Door dragooned their accountant to pose for the interview photos, and appear on the cover.

The pith of the interview, which unfortunately isn't online, was an account of Neuhaus' estrangement from the Sixties anti-war Left after the end of the Vietnam War. He and a very few others spoke out against the predictably tyrannical rule the communist North imposed on the country, but they were brought up short by their former peace & justice vanguard-mates. Communist Vietnam is on the correct side of the world revolution, he was told, and it is unhelpful to the cause to criticize them. So much for the Voices of Conscience, he thought, and began his pilgrimage back from those circles.

Some years later I encountered First Things, though I don't remember how, and recognized Neuhaus from that Door interview. And I read happily ever after!

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