Magazine article The Christian Century

I Statements

Magazine article The Christian Century

I Statements

Article excerpt

I REGRETTED TO SEE in the January 2 New York Times that Peter Steinfels was writing his final "Beliefs" column. I've rarely missed a Steinfels column over the years. They were consistently respectful and totally devoid of either simplistic advocacy or simplistic criticism. Steinfels attempted to understand and analyze the complexity of religion in contemporary America. In years when religion generally made it into the news pages only when someone did or said something outrageous, Steinfels's column was an oasis of thoughtful, theologically informed analysis. In a very brief conversation with him years ago I found him to be cordial but crisp and to the point, without hinting at all about his personal feelings on the subject we discussed--in other words, a consummate journalist.

In his last column Steinfels wrote that his choice of topics did reveal a personal perspective, but he tried to be detached. "I never wrote in the first person singular," he explained.

Martin Marty picked up on that comment in his January 4 "Sightings" column and remembered that he and Dean Peerman used to coauthor a CENTURY column anonymously, which occasionally led them to take refuge in "stilted phrases such as 'it seems to the present writer that.'" Some years ago the CENTURY resumed an old tradition of having the lead editorial be unsigned--another case where there can be no first-person pronoun: it's an editorial that belongs to all of us.

This discussion made me think of the special place of the personal pronoun in preaching. …

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