As we recently demonstrated, your friends here at GetReligion admire the work of the young Jon Meacham at Newsweek. At least, we admire his skills as an essay writer whose editorial point of view would be right at home at Episcopal News Service. As I have said before, he is a fine writer of doctrinal essays. I'm not sure that what he writes is journalism, as that term has been defined in most mainstream newsrooms in the past, but his talent is obvious. He would make a great, great editor for The Christian Century, should that mainline Protestant touchstone need one in the near future. He'd be dynamite at Salon or Slate. He might be too theologically progressive for The New Republic.
But that is not, of course, where Meacham is headed next. The news has been out for some time now that he is about to move from the managing editor chair to that of editor, replacing Mark Whitaker. I've been waiting for Newsweek to do a blurb on this, but have yet to see one. Did I miss it?
A piece in The Wall Street Journal by Sarah Ellison stated the obvious:
The changes at Newsweek come amid growing pressure at the nation's two biggest newsweeklies, both of which are especially vulnerable to 24-hour cable and Internet news. For years, Newsweek and Time Warner Inc.'s Time magazine have nurtured a fierce rivalry.
The magazines have long been moving away from hard news toward "back of the book" features about lifestyle, health and news-you-can-use, but Time changed the rules of engagement when new managing editor Richard Stengel announced that Time would begin publishing on Fridays instead of Mondays. He acknowledged that the print magazine increasingly is less a home for breaking news and more for analysis.
But analysis of what?
That is where Meacham has stepped forward and combined two always hot topics -- God and politics -- as viewed through the lens of the Bible belt native who escapes to the Northeast and thrives. As Ellison put it, Meacham is a D.C. Beltway type, but also a "precocious student of history from Tennessee who has often stepped into the magazine's religion coverage."
I think that it's safe to say that we can expect to see more religion analysis at Newsweek, which is not the same thing as seeing more religion news.
That's why I thought it was rather interesting that the newsmagazine rather quietly ran this letter to the editor after the Meacham cover story about the Rev. Billy Graham. You may recall that this was the lengthy piece in which the essayist takes a few familiar quotations from the evangelist and, behold, discovers that the elder statesman of evangelicalism has grown into a mature, humble man whose views on heaven, hell and salvation are becoming more, shall we say, Universalistic or, at the very least, Episcopalian.
Make sure you read to the end of this letter.
I was overwhelmed by NEWSWEEK's generous coverage of the life my wife, Ruth, and I are experiencing as we grow older. "Pilgrim's Progress" was an apt title for the article. Like every other Christian, I see myself as a pilgrim journeying through life, looking expectantly to what God has promised in the future and yet yearning to be faithful in the present. Jon Meacham worked diligently to understand how my thinking on certain issues has grown over the years, and I commend him for seeking to capture my commitment to the Gospel I have always preached. The world is constantly changing, and I am only one in a long line of men and women who have sought to relate God's unchanging truth to the challenges of their time. As I grow older, my confidence in the inspiration and authority of the Bible has grown even stronger. So has my conviction that only Christ can give us lasting hope -- hope for this life, and hope for the life to come. As the Bible says in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
The Graham organization posted the same letter at its website, to make sure its supporters could see it. The key word there is "only."
I wonder, is this another case in the Washington Post/Newsweek empire in which the letter to the editor is supposed to serve as a kind of gentle correction?