Twenty years ago, shortly after we had moved from Milton, Mass. to Decatur, Ga., my eldest son returned from a day at Decatur Presbyterian Kindergarten and asked, “Daddy, What’s the bobble?”
“What’s the bobble?”
“You know,” he said. “Jesus loves me. This I know. For the bobble tells me so.”
“Oh,” I replied, sagely. “It’s kind of like our Bible, only different.”
I’ve finally gotten around to reading Newsweek religion editor LIsa Miller’s cover story on what the Bible tells us about marriage, and for sure, there’s something stunning about a mainstay of the mainstream American news media taking sides in a highly contentious religious issue. Half a century ago, Time roiled the culture by merely providing a platform for a bunch of avant-garde theologians with a stark cover that read, “Is God Dead?”
Steve Waldman, an old newsweekly guy, is appalled at the apparent transformation of one of them into an “an out-and-out opinion-oriented magazine.” As an old daily newspaper guy, I’ve always been put off by the traditional newsweekly confidence that we know exactly what’s what, and will tell all you middle-brows what it means so definitively that you don’t have to give the matter a second thought–until maybe next week, when we’ll retell it as if last week had never happened.
Miller does not depart from that tradition, rushing in with utter aplomb where biblical scholars know there are land mines. Likewise, the magazine’s editor, John Meacham, does not hesitate to read America’s Episcopalian schismatics the riot act for rooting their opposition to gay marriage and ordination in a book they consider the “final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.” Saith Meacham:
No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism.
And what, pray tell, would be the best kind of fundamentalism, John?
When it comes to the Bible, bobble, Old and New Testaments, Tanach, or whatever you want to call it or them, prudence suggests that journalists beware of making definitive pronouncements on what verses mean and how much authority they should have. Making unsourced assertions is known in the news trade as using “the voice of God.” It is not entirely forbidden, but it is very much frowned upon.