Much commentary over the past few days about Noah Feldman’s NYTimes Magazine article about Church and State, including MIrror of Justice, naturally.
A rather different comment is found at The Revealer, where the Times is roundly mocked for deciding that this new book on religion is worth excerpting, when the Times would never, in a million years, think about excerpting a religion-themed book that people were actually reading. (Defense of the Times: Fourth of July weekend, thinking about Who We Are as a Nation and all that. Fits the moment.)
The Times Magazine isn’t normally in the business of excerpting books about religion. Karen Armstrong has never been deemed newsworthy, and neither has Richard John Neuhaus. Atheist Sam Harris’ bestselling The End of Faith was surely too controversial, as was Rod Parsley’s bestselling battlecry for theocracy, Silent No More. How about the wildly popular, quirky Christianity of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies? Nope. Or hell, if really want to know what’s going on, what about an excerpt from The Purpose-Driven Life? No way. Each of these authors, and many others, have done more to shape the debate on religious life in America than Feldman can ever hope to.
So why Feldman? Because his sober, reasonable voice, calibrated to a kind of educated, middle class populism, sounds like the Times, and the Times tends to report most on those who sound like the Times. That he’s a smart man who has devoted time and brainpower to these questions — just like Neuhaus, or Harris, or Parsley — is probably not as relevant as tone.