Church ± StatenA DIALOGUEnThe Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in AmericanRichard John Neuhaus: The NakednPublic Square: Religion andnDemocracy in America; Wm. B.nEerdmans; Grand Rapids, MI.nJames Hitchcock is professor of historynat St. Louis University. His latestnbook is The Pope and the Jesuits,npublished by the National Committeenof Catholic Laymen.nGeorge M. Marsden is professor ofnhistory at Calvin College and editornof EvangeHsm in Modern American(Eerdmans).n6/CHIiONICLES OF CULTUREnby James HitchcocknIn writing The Naked Public Square,nRichard John Neuhaus, a Lutherannpastor, was undoubtedly conscious ofnLutheranism’s potentially central rolenin mediating the religious-moral battlesnnow so conspicuous on the Americannscene. Liturgical and dogmatic,nyet firmly evangelical, mainstream innsome of its American manifestationsnand quasi-sectarian in others, runningnthe gamut from the most sophisticatedntheology to simple pietism, Lutheranismnperhaps holds within itself thenpossibility of refereeing the conflictingnclaims of Catholics and Evangelicals,nliberals and fundamentalists.nAlthough Neuhaus suggests Lutheranism’snpossible role briefly and tentativelyntowards the end of the book,nthere is a sense that he also realizesnthat it is unlikely. His church’s modestnnumbers may themselves deny it suchna role, along with its concentration inna relatively few geographical areas. Itsntradition is not one of vigorous actionnin the public realm, nor of farreachingnthought about the relationshipnof religion and the state.nBefore alluding to the potential ofnhis own denomination, Neuhaus discussesnthe “Catholic moment” whichnhe says by rights should now havencome in America. For, although Catholicismnsuffers from the obvious disabilitiesnof the Reformation legacy,nespecially the lingering sense that it isnan alien faith in a Protestant land, itndoes possess the numbers, the traditions,nand the political and intellectualnsophistication which might enable it tonoversee the filling up of the square.nHere the author is too optimistic.nHe rightly points out that the electionnof John F. Kennedy was not the Catholicnmoment it has often beennthought, because, as Neuhaus pithilynputs it, Kennedy “reassured the electo-n(continued on page 7)nnnby George M. MarsdennMy hometown in central Pennsylvanianhas long had a nakednpublic square. Today the most noteworthynbuildings on the square are thenColonial Bar and Grill, a Seven-nEleven, and a barbershop. Religion isnnowhere to be seen. I am not, I mustnconfess, embarrassed about this, exceptnaesthetically. It reflects a traditionngoing back to the founding of the townnin the 1750’s. At that time the townnplanners deeded lots to the Lutherans,nthe Presbyterians, and the Moravians.nUnlike European precedents, however,nnone of these churches were to benon the public square. This geographicalndistancing symbolized a more basicnprinciple. Religion was encouraged bynthe town founders; but it was alsondistanced from the formal center ofncivic activity. Eighteenth-centurynPennsylvania was justly celebrated as anhaven of religious liberty and was anmodel for the American experiment.nThe naked public square, then,nmight be presented as a symbol of whatnis right about the American traditionnof religion and politics just as easily asnit can be used, as Neuhaus uses it, asnan image for what is going wrong. Atnleast, it is not immediately obviousnwhy we should share Neuhaus’snalarm. Neuhaus’s alarm seems basednprimarily on his repeated assertion thatnthe exclusion of religious discoursenfrom public life will create a moralnvacuum that will be filled by statentotalitarianism. But is there historicalnevidence for this claim? If one considersnthe classic totalitarian regimes innnations with major Christian heritage,nsuch as Russia, Italy, Germany, Cuba,nor Argentina, public religious discoursendoes not seem to have beennunusually lacking prior to the rise ofnsuch regimesnNonetheless, Neuhaus has a pointn(continued on page 1)n