Winding up our religion news coverage for the week, we note that the New York Times religion page editors are defending themselves from the charge of “dumbing down” religion. One of their number, Lisa Webster, has responded to Leon Wieseltier’s attack on T. M. Luhrmann (here):
Luhrmann’s anthropological work focuses on the spiritual lives of evangelicals, and her columns in the Times, with headlines like “Why We Talk in Tongues,” and “Addicted to Prayer,” sound a consistent theme: pious evangelicals are not idiots, and what they’re doing works. And by “works” she means it’s good for people, makes them happy.
If all one must do to escape being classified as an idiot is things that make one happy, the classification would mostly be emptied overnight.
As Webster goes on to acknowledge, wise people don’t seek merely to be happy, though they naturally hope for a certain contentment with the fruits of wisdom.
The Times staff, as so often, want it both ways: To be able to portray such evangelicals as happy clappy idiots (at the very best) and then make nice later, asking “Why can’t we all just get along?” Never under any circumstances to ask whether they could be right about something, on the evidence.
The thing is, thanks to the entirely unrelated way that the Internet has changed newsgathering, it all just isn’t working for the Times any more.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose