Fair and balanced

I am on record as finding Ross Douthat’s columns to be “completely valueless” as a rule, so it seems only fair to say that I find his most recent one to be moderately okay. (Though it is certain to be incredibly low in absolute terms, only time will tell if his overall “moderately okay” to “completely valueless” ratio will turn out to be higher than David Brooks’.)

I do remain mystified, however, by the New York Times‘s decision to elevate someone who amounts to a moderately articulate apologist for Roman Catholicism to the august rank of columnist, especially at such a tender age. The truly bold choice if they wanted a new religious voice would have been, for example, Susan Thistlethwaite, which would have promoted my pet cause of reminding people that–against all odds–liberal Christians do exist.

One thought on “Fair and balanced

  1. I don’t know that we can look to the NYT for very deep guidance on interreligious dialogue, but I am all for what Douthat seems to call for in this instance– a calling-off of the apparent moratorium on substantive religious discussion. Why the available choices should be thought exhausted by either (1) Newage all-roads-lead-to-nirvana, (2) smiling politely and keeping one’s opinions to oneself, or (3) hellfire-mongering, is beyond me. I’m neither one of the so called ‘new’ atheists nor an old one, but I agree with them that religion ought to be able to be discussed– and more than discussed– rather than shrouded in a veil of respectable privacy. I don’t say that there is no ‘private’ dimension to religious practice, but I think Alexander Schmemann is right to critique secularism in terms of its reducing worship to yet another option available to the individual, rather than a (the?) fundamental anthropological term. But to affirm this strongly entails a critique not just of “other religions” but of the cultural presuppositions by which such conversation is proscribed. It’s far more than the assertion of this or that religious claim; it’s a protest against the trivializing of such discourse in general.

    Of course one could rejoin that it’s the public carrying-on of such discourse that trivializes it. And the religion columns in the NYT might well be admitted as exhibit A in such a case. But I would say the cure for shallow religious discussion is deep religious discussion. The call for depth, however, is already a critique of culture.

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