Martin Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, must read GetReligion. I always know, when I read a piece by Peretz on the Middle East, I will be getting and honest and knowledgeable assessment on the conflict, but I wasn't aware of his ability to grill a public figure for incoherent comments on religious matters. I found one of his most recent blog posts, on the comments of presidential wannabe and already-run Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as quoted in a recent New York Times article, to be quite impressive. Kerry said that "not in one page, not in one phrase uttered and reported by the Lord Jesus Christ, can you find anything that suggests that there is a virtue in cutting children from Medicare."
Peretz, doing my job, ripped into Kerry:
I'd actually go Kerry one further: I doubt that Jesus ever mentioned Medicare at all. Still, it's probably significant that some presidential aspirants -- Kerry, for one -- want to demonstrate that there are among them some real live Democrats for God. Or, as the Times said about him, he is "A Roman Catholic, who has struggled at times to talk about his own faith ... Mr. Kerry also told the group that he believed 'deeply in my faith'." Now, there are many Catholics including high ecclesiastics who doubt this. But who am I to have a point of view on what is essentially an intramural fight? In any case, as it turns out, Kerry is not only a Roman Catholic but also an ecumenicist.
Kerry also said the Koran, the Torah, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles had influenced a social conscience that he exercised in politics. To this Peretz said:
[L]et me ask: What hadith of the Prophet influenced him the most, and why? And here I have a personal interest: Which of the injunctions of Leviticus and who among the Prophets have the most meaning for him? Ordinarily, of course, I wouldn't ask such personal questions of a politician. In the spirit of Jesus, Kerry will certainly forgive me for doing so.
Sure Peretz is being somewhat picky, but that is what we do here. Those who know religion must critique public figures invoking religious themes and historical analogies. While I would expect a reporter writing about such comments to ask probing questions and dig into the subject instead of merely rewriting what was said, I realize that is not always going to happen for a variety of reasons. That's why we're here, and it's comforting to know that others are helping us out with the job.