A dose of cynicism at this blog? No way

As I await hurricane reports and loss of my DSL, let me pause to respond to a letter that gently accuses me of cynicism in my post yesterday on the separation of coven and state.

Let’s go straight to the comments section:

Could it be that tmatt is just trying to gin up a little spurious contoversy by waving some red meat at the right? And if so, then how does this fit into the stated purpose of this blog?

Also, another interesting question has been asked. How does the United States manage to have Baptist chaplains in the military, when Baptists are about as fragmented and “free church” as one can get?

Indeed, I thought of the Baptist analogy. That’s why I used the “free church” analogy in the first place. But there are some Baptist structures at this point, some seminaries and powerful people with whom the state can negotiate. At this point, there is no similar pagan establishment of this kind.

And what does this whole topic have to do with the stated purpose of this blog?

That’s easy. First of all, I really did want to praise the original source story. We are here to praise good work on the religion beat, as well as poke at the coverage that we think is lacking. Honest.

Second, this coven and state thing is not a joke. It is an emerging issue in church-state law. The government is not supposed to discriminate on the basis of religious points of view. You can look it up.

The political right will have to deal with that and will struggle to do so. Just as the cultural left stuggles with the same concept. On what basis does the state fund the work of, let’s say, Episcopal institutions that sound neo-Unitarian, but not fund the work of charismatic Episcopal ministries that sound neo-Pentecostal?

And it is also true that the high court has truly knocked away key props that held up what used to known as Western thought. As Charles Colson noted, we can’t have the “mystery of the universe” as a legal standard when it comes time to create stop signs and traffic laws. But where did that absolute standard come from, other than insurance costs and injuries?

This is a valid story. Just watch.

So I was sincere in the original post. The topic is not going away.

“Cosmo” also asked about the funding of this blog.

As I said back at the beginning, GetReligion was born as part of the wider journalism projects linked to my work as Senior Fellow for Journalism at the Council For Christian Colleges and Universities. In particular, you might want to check out the information at the Best Semester site about the Summer Institute for Journalism.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.philocrites.com Philocrites

    Perhaps I missed something, but exactly what are you referring to when you write: “On what basis does the state fund the work of, let’s say, Episcopal institutions that sound neo-Unitarian, but not fund the work of charismatic Episcopal ministries that sound neo-Pentecostal?”

    What state funding?

  • http://www.getreligion.org tmatt

    OK, let’s be specific. You have an ECUSA hospital that is doing work with alchoholics on the street. This work is in a religious institution, yet has no specific religious content. Correct? Now, nearby is a Charismatic Episcopal ministry that also works with alchoholics on the street. But this program also has religious content, in terms of its views on salvation and even moral issues.

    Which is eligible for state money? Obviously the “secular” religious program, as opposed to the “religious” religious program. The difference? Discrimination on the basis of evangelism, due to fears on the cultural left.

    Now, let’s say the White House opens the doors to faith-based initiatives that make “religious” religious programs eligible. Only, now you have applications from the Baptists, and the Wiccans, from the Jewish Center, and the local National of Islam center. How do you discriminate between these viewpoints. Thus, the right gets nervous.

    This is a real story.

  • http://www.chasclifton.com/blogger.html Chas S. Clifton


    You wrote, “At this point, there is no similar pagan establishment [seminary] of this kind.”

    Actually, there is, albeit tiny: Cherry Hill Seminary, now in the accreditation process: http://www.cherryhillseminary.org/

    As for “what used to known as Western thought,” Pagan intellectuals, at least, realize that their roots are deeply in the Neoplatonic tradition, which is about as “Western” as it gets.

    best wishes,

    Chas Clifton

  • http://www.wildfaith.com Darrell Grizzle

    I appreciate this follow-up blog entry. I did not see tmatt’s original entry as cynical, but as a serious report, albeit with a touch of humor (just as Doug uses in his blog entries). My analogy between Baptists and Wiccans does break down, though, at the seminary level: no Wiccan groups have ever established anything like a Mercer University (just to use one example).

  • http://knapsack.blogspot.com Jeff

    TMatt –

    I’m putting this here for lack of anywhere else i can think of to put it, along with your meme of “ghosts”: i may be overreacting, but on the Olympic opening ceremonies broadcast, there was not a single odd bit of trivia Bob Costas did not share, nor an attention getting variation from the US norm that did not earn his explanation (it’s still going on in the living room, as i type this). But when all the “Saint Blank” countries came first in the alphabet, no note of why that would be; in the parade of the millenia, his only significant silence was during the delightful live action ikons as they passed — he muttered, to Katie’s counterpoint, something about the Byzantine era, and may have mumbled the word “church” once (i’d have to see a transcript).

    Small items, but glaring to me in how Bob seems to assume that the only trivia too trivial to tell is faith-oriented, and the only gods worth mentioning are carved in marble with colonnades around them.

    Or maybe i just can’t stand Costas’ commentary.

    Peace. And enjoy the Olympics! (And i’ll keep watching for Terry’s ghosts!)


  • http://www.ecben.net Will Linden

    It is indeed an issue that has to be addressed. Here in New York there was serious litigation in Covenant of the Goddess vs. Dinkins (yes, tHAT Dinkins, when he was City Clerk) over the “qualifications” of Wiccan HPs to perform marriages.