“In our contemporary battles over the correct separation of church and state,” Liberty editor Lincoln Steed writes in the editorial for the magazine’s current issue, “we need a good sense of perspective.” True. And while ‘perspective’ is not something one can take for granted in a magazine produced by and dedicated to a particular religious institution—in this case, the Seventh Day Adventist Church—this “magazine of religious freedom” delivers, indeed, exactly that. This is religion expressed and discussed in a compellingly theoretical manner—one that is resolutely focused on a topic and tension that has been an intimate aspect of American democracy since the founding of the Republic: the connection, and distinction, between church and state.
To wit, the magazine’s Declaration of Principles:
- The God-given right of religious liberty is best exercised when church and state are separate.
- Government is God’s agency to protect individual rights and to conduct civil affairs; in exercising these responsibilities, officials are entitled to respect and cooperation.
- Religious liberty entails freedom of conscience: to worship or not to worship; to profess, practice and promulgate religious beliefs or to change them. In exercising these rights, however, one must respect the equivalent rights of all others.
- Attempts to unite church and state are opposed to the interests of each, subversive of human rights and potentially persecuting in character; to oppose union, lawfully and honorably, is not only the citizen’s duty but the essence of the Golden Rule–to treat others as one wishes to be treated.
The journalism that springs from that declaration—work that self-consciously focuses on The Big Questions of faith as they relate to The Big Questions of American democracy—is rigorous and compelling. A consideration of Sonia Sotomayor’s record on religious liberty. A meditation—supplemented with twelve footnotes for further reading—on the religious aspects of the U.S. torture debates. A consideration of intolerance toward Muslims in America, written by…a Washington (state) ninth-grader. Even “A Clash of Millennialisms on Capitol Hill”—part of “Explaining Liberty,” a series devoted to exploring the magazine’s own history—manages to distill, in narrating the saga of the American Sentinel’s fight against a 19th century movement to declare the U.S. a Christian nation, the story of America’s battle with itself when it comes to its fraught relationship between religion and politics.
Magazines like Liberty—defined not merely as magazines of ideas, but as magazines of specific ideas—can easily slide into self-serving, self-interested polemic. The magazine that is Liberty, however, manages to embrace its roots and its mission in a way that is engaging even to this non-Seventh Day Adventist. It is, to be sure, distinctly Christian—both in its promotion of Judeo-Christian beliefs, and in its assumption that its audience shares them. And yet it battles past the traps—which is to say, the trappings—of one-dimensionality. It republishes the speech, for example, of the Rabbi—yes, Rabbi—David Saperstein, delivered on the occasion of the law professor’s and religious-freedom advocate’s winning of the Liberty-sponsored 2009 Religious Liberty Award.) Yes, the many references to Seventh Day Adventism sprinkled throughout the magazine come to feel, after a while, to be precisely what they are: redundant. But in an age of catch-all journalism—magazines-of-ideas trying to serve as many gods as will buy their products—there is something immensely refreshing about a magazine that wears its heart, and its faith, on its sleeve. - Megan Garber
Washington City Paper, November 6-12, 2009
John Kennedy once said that Washington, D.C. is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm. D.C.’s City Paper, however, is a well-reputed source of new-media snark and old-media shoeleather.
This week’s issue opens with the Mayor Adrian M. “Fenty scandal du jour,” which is a “parks contracting scheme [that] eschewed standard procurement rules” in awarding $120 million worth of city development money. The mayor’s ostensible motivation is efficiency. Procurement: Who has time anymore?
Strangely, though, this supposed need for speed does not apply to the Fenty administration’s handling of FOIA requests, which has prompted City Paper “Loose Lips” columnist Mike DeBonis to compare his administration to that of George W. Bush. (He details other similarities, too.) If you speak alt-weekly, you know that the invocation of George W. Bush translates to: “It’s on.”