Via Media

Via Media


Can’t We All Get Along?

posted by awelborn

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.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(29)
post a comment
Nancy

posted July 4, 2005 at 9:35 am


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.
There’s something wrong with a newspaper or magazine publishing articles aimed at its core readers, written in language they are likely to understand?
I didn’t find the article all that interesting, myself, but then I don’t fit the Times’ core profile.



report abuse
 

Jacob

posted July 4, 2005 at 9:35 am


Hey Amy. Hope your traveling is going well.
The New York Times definitely has its standards. The newspaper of record is more concerned about retaining its identity as the (self-proclaimed) newspaper of record than it is in actually reporting. But we all knew that, right? :)
I read The Des Moines Register. Far more interesting and Iowa does have a central place in national politics.



report abuse
 

Matt

posted July 4, 2005 at 9:43 am


Heh. The main problem with Feldman and his proposal is that he fails to see secularism/atheism as a religion itself (and evolution as more a religious dogma than a scientific theory). Unfortunately, so has the Supreme Court; they haven’t really split things all that evenly after all. So denying tuition vouchers (e.g.) to schools that teach religion as the source of moral truth (not just “values”!) is still viewpoint discrimination. (Pardon me if I’m stating the obvious ;-)



report abuse
 

Shaun G

posted July 4, 2005 at 9:58 am


While I can see how both “values evangelicals” and “legal secularists” might find the “Feldman compromise” alluring, I am not sure it is as simple as it is presented in the Times article.
For instance, Feldman mentions some controversial cases — like the recent case of Terri Schiavo, and the Roe v. Wade ruling — and suggests that his compromise would allow values evangelicals to introduce more of their faith in their political arguments. But politicians already get to bring their faith into their political arguments — and indeed, plenty of politicians make no secret about voting according to their faith’s teachings. Where values evangelicals would really like to see an infusion of religiousity is in the judicial branch — and I just don’t see how the Feldman compromise would achieve that.



report abuse
 

Shaun G

posted July 4, 2005 at 10:00 am


While I can see how both “values evangelicals” and “legal secularists” might find the “Feldman compromise” alluring, I am not sure it is as simple as it is presented in the Times article.
For instance, Feldman mentions some controversial cases — like the recent case of Terri Schiavo, and the Roe v. Wade ruling — and suggests that his compromise would allow values evangelicals to introduce more of their faith in their political arguments. But politicians already get to bring their faith into their political arguments — and indeed, plenty of politicians make no secret about voting according to their faith’s teachings. Where values evangelicals would really like to see an infusion of religiousity is in the judicial branch — and I just don’t see how the Feldman compromise would achieve that.



report abuse
 

Shaun G

posted July 4, 2005 at 10:02 am


While I can see how both “values evangelicals” and “legal secularists” might find the “Feldman compromise” alluring, I am not sure it is as simple as it is presented in the Times article.
For instance, Feldman mentions some controversial cases — like the recent case of Terri Schiavo, and the Roe v. Wade ruling — and suggests that his compromise would allow values evangelicals to introduce more of their faith in their political arguments. But politicians already get to bring their faith into their political arguments — and indeed, plenty of politicians make no secret about voting according to their faith’s teachings. Where values evangelicals would really like to see an infusion of religiousity is in the judicial branch — and I just don’t see how the Feldman compromise would achieve that.



report abuse
 

Julia

posted July 4, 2005 at 11:25 am


The decision by Catholic Uiversities to accept Federal money back in the 1960s is the turning point that de-Catholicized many of those institutions. That’s when boards of directors were laicized and then secularized. That’s when professors tended to be no more Catholic than at non-Catholic schools. The resulting mind-set is responsible for Vagina Monologues being produced at “Catholic” Universities.
I say – stop accepting Federal funding or go public like Harvard and Princeton.
I see value in what the man has to say. Not in all particulars, but his thinking is provocative and seems to explain a lot of how the country got so divided.



report abuse
 

Nancy

posted July 4, 2005 at 11:28 am


The New York Times definitely has its standards. The newspaper of record is more concerned about retaining its identity as the (self-proclaimed) newspaper of record than it is in actually reporting. But we all knew that, right? :)
If the Times thinks it’s some kind of “newspaper of record,” they’re too busy thinking well of themselves. It’s just another newspaper.



report abuse
 

Nancy

posted July 4, 2005 at 11:38 am


Interesting comment, Julia (as usual), and I think maybe you’re onto something. That’s why school vouchers too may not end up being such a great idea for the Catholic schools?
Follow the money? Not such a bad clue.



report abuse
 

John P Sheridan

posted July 4, 2005 at 1:13 pm


I think Feldman has some good points, and it is interesting that his proposal is almost the opposite of the caselaw as it currently stands. In additon, I have always thought that restricting religious expression violated the “free speech” portion of the first amendment.
In defense of the Times: this is not an article about Feldman’s beliefs or religion. It is an article about the Supreme Court and Constitutional Law.
Secondly, the Times has officially disclaimed the title “newspaper of record.”
Finally, the NY Times Magazine, where this article was published, has a different editorial board and different editrotial policies from the newspaper.



report abuse
 

Nance

posted July 4, 2005 at 3:36 pm


I’m still reeling from the idea of Rod Parsley — a charlatan to make Elmer Gantry look like St. Francis of Assisi — being offered as a potential author for the NYT to excerpt.



report abuse
 

Peggy

posted July 4, 2005 at 4:31 pm


I live in New York and read the Times every day so I am totally familiar with their pecualiar way of loooking at the world. When they said they wanted to have more articles about religion I shuddered. Only POeter Steinfels even tries to make sense of a religious topic. Despite the fact that the churches outside of New Yrok are bursting at the seams they are only interested in a “dying” parish. There are six Catholic churches within a ten minute walk of my apartment in Yorkville. They were all immigrant based churches for Germans, Hungariand and Irish. Of course they are empty because their parish base has moved. Of course they need to be consolidated.But we hear never a word about the thriving parishes outside of New York, of the many Bronx churches filled with Mexicans or the Staten Island churches where a huge influx of new housing is attracting people.



report abuse
 

Peggy

posted July 4, 2005 at 4:34 pm


I live in New York and read the Times every day so I am totally familiar with their pecualiar way of loooking at the world. When they said they wanted to have more articles about religion I shuddered. Only POeter Steinfels even tries to make sense of a religious topic. Despite the fact that the churches outside of New Yrok are bursting at the seams they are only interested in a “dying” parish. There are six Catholic churches within a ten minute walk of my apartment in Yorkville. They were all immigrant based churches for Germans, Hungariand and Irish. Of course they are empty because their parish base has moved. Of course they need to be consolidated.But we hear never a word about the thriving parishes outside of New York, of the many Bronx churches filled with Mexicans or the Staten Island churches where a huge influx of new housing is attracting people.



report abuse
 

RP Burke

posted July 4, 2005 at 6:38 pm


I’m with Nance. Headquartered here in Columbus, I think Parsley only gives out 3-dollar bills.



report abuse
 

Nance

posted July 4, 2005 at 7:02 pm


Ha! Giving them out with one hand while collecting C-notes with the other.



report abuse
 

Marco the Triumphalistic Papist

posted July 5, 2005 at 1:49 am


Amend the U.S. Constitution: repeal the First Amendment and in its place establish Catholicism as the sole “official” religion of the country. Error has no rights. Get with the program. Your eternal destiny is at stake.



report abuse
 

Mike Petrik

posted July 5, 2005 at 9:20 am


Marco,
For what it’s worth I think that repealing the First Amendment would be a bad idea. But I wouldn’t mind a judicial branch that interprets the religion clauses in a manner that is faithful to their words. How’s that for a radical idea?



report abuse
 

Donald R. McClarey

posted July 5, 2005 at 9:48 am


I would only want the First Amendment repealed for trolls with phony e-mail addresses.



report abuse
 

Donald R. McClarey

posted July 5, 2005 at 9:49 am


I would only want the First Amendment repealed for trolls with phony e-mail addresses.



report abuse
 

Donald R. McClarey

posted July 5, 2005 at 9:51 am


Sorry for the double post.



report abuse
 

John

posted July 5, 2005 at 10:00 am


Peggy: “There are six Catholic churches within a ten minute walk of my apartment in Yorkville. They were all immigrant based churches for Germans, Hungariand and Irish. Of course they are empty because their parish base has moved.”
Granted it’s benn all of two months since I left Yorkville for the village but I would have to disagree with that statement. I would categorize St. Joe’s (87th and 1st) as a vibrant parish and while the liturgies in Our Lady of Good Counsel didn’t inspire yours truly they always seemed to have reasonably good sized crowds at mass on Sunday morning.



report abuse
 

reluctant penitent

posted July 5, 2005 at 2:04 pm


Mr. McClarey,
Mr. Triumphalist Papist’s email address is not phony. It’s “benedictxvi@vatican.va”, so unless you can prove that “Marco the Triumphalistic Papist” is not the Holy Father, you should withdraw your accusation!
I personally am disappointed that the Holy Father chose such an unimaginative nom de plume, and that his posts are inferior in style and content to his published works–indeed inferior in these respects to an average child’s scribblings. Nevertheless we have to respect the Vicar of Christ!



report abuse
 

reluctant penitent

posted July 5, 2005 at 2:05 pm


Mr. McClarey,
Mr. Triumphalist Papist’s email address is not phony. It’s “benedictxvi@vatican.va”, so unless you can prove that “Marco the Triumphalistic Papist” is not the Holy Father, you should withdraw your accusation!
I am disappointed that the Holy Father chose such an unimaginative nom de plume, and that his posts are inferior in style and content to his published works–indeed inferior in these respects to an average child’s scribblings. Nevertheless we have to respect the Vicar of Christ!



report abuse
 

reluctant penitent

posted July 5, 2005 at 2:07 pm


I will do extra penance for the double post.



report abuse
 

Donald R. McClarey

posted July 5, 2005 at 2:29 pm


Please don’t reluctant penitent. That was worthy of a double posting!



report abuse
 

Nancy

posted July 5, 2005 at 2:40 pm


I hope amy starts posting again soon, you guys are running in circles.



report abuse
 

hieronymus

posted July 5, 2005 at 3:52 pm


Gosh, Nancy… because we all know you never get repetitive when posting here…
Cheer up, and let the men joust.



report abuse
 

alkali

posted July 5, 2005 at 5:14 pm


benedictxvi@vatican.va
If you get the Roman numerals mixed up, do you get an irritated response from Benedict XIV?



report abuse
 

Nancy

posted July 5, 2005 at 5:48 pm


It’s not the repetitive thing. Hey, I can’t handle computers either. It’s throwing stones at each other about being “triumphalist.” It’s not just men.
But hey, enjoy.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

There is nothing I shall want
A couple of weeks ago, a memorial Mass for Michael was held here in Birmingham at the Cathedral. The bishop presided and offered a very nice, even charming homily in which he first focused on the Scripture readings of the day, and then turned to Michael, whom he remembered, among other things, as on

posted 9:24:16am Mar. 05, 2009 | read full post »

Revolutionary Road - Is it just me?
Why am I the only person I know..or even "know" in the Internet sense of "knowing"  - who didn't hate it? I didn't love it, either. There was a lot wrong with it. Weak characterization. Miscasting. Anvil-wielding mentally ill prophets.But here's the thing.Whether or not Yates' original novel in

posted 9:45:04pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Books for Lent
No, I'm not going to ask you about your Lenten reading lists...although I might.Not today, though. This post is about giving books to others. For Lent, and a long time after that. You know how it goes during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, right?Well, here's a worthy recipient for your hard-

posted 9:22:07pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Why Via Media
How about....because I'm lame and hate thinking up titles to things? No?Okay...how about...St. Benedict? Yes, yes, I know the association with Anglicanism. That wasn't invovled in my purpose in naming the joint, but if draws some Googling Episcopalians, all the better.To tell the truth, you can bl

posted 8:54:17pm Mar. 04, 2009 | read full post »

Brave Heart?
I don't know about you, but one of effects of childbirth on me was a compulsion to spill the details. All of them.The whole thing was fascinating to me, so of course I assumed everyone else should be fascinated as well in the recounting of every minute of labor, describing the intensity of discomfor

posted 10:19:45pm Mar. 03, 2009 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.