I write Country Parson for my own pleasure, but I’m always pleased when others read it, and even more when they comment on it. My chosen subjects are theology, politics, and economics, with a little nonsense thrown in from time to time. Country Parson is part of the Christian Century blog network, and I like it very much when one of my pieces gets chosen for broader exposure as a featured article. Probably like others, I check my reader statistics every day or two, so maybe I treasure a secret desire to be a well known writer of editorial opinion.
That brings up the question of what editorial opinion is. As I see it, the purpose of editorial writing is to influence public opinion. It isn’t the same as reporting that intends to inform as objectively as possible. Editorial writing acknowledges the political and moral implications of important issues, and does what it can to illuminate them while staking out a defensible position on them.
There is a saying that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts. Well written editorial opinion will always reflect a point of view, but one that is based on a careful examination of the issues and the verifiable data associated with them. That seems to be missing in most of what I read on the editorial pages of our local paper, and often in the national media as well. When I think of nationally known writers whose opinions I value for their thoughtfulness, i.e., for the amount of analytical thinking that goes into them, there are a few names that come to mind: E.J. Dionne, Eugene Robinson, David Brooks, and Frank Bruni, among others. On the other hand are writers like Rich Lowry who has only one emotionally charged opinion that he forces onto every issue he encounters; the facts be damned if they can’t be made to agree. What’s missing are nationally known writers on matters theological, although there are a number who write for religious journals of fairly limited circulation.
But I digress. We need to talk more about me. As a late vocation priest, I didn’t go to seminary until I was fifty. Obviously I brought a lot of life experiences with me that included a successful career, one failed marriage, one spectacularly wonderful marriage, and a lifetime of poking my nose into almost every corner of American communities, businesses, and industries. When I write on matters theological, it’s as an Episcopalian from a more progressive perspective influenced by people such as Niebuhr, Gerard, Stackhouse, Taylor, Yoder, and the like. My politics have been shaped by thirty years of working in and around the political arena. I’ve worked on and led campaigns, done a lot of public policy analysis and consulting, and engaged in a little lobbying. Most of it was on behalf of business interests, especially big business, which may have something to do with why I am not a Republican. I’m a center left realist, if there is such a thing. As for economics, one cannot wade into public policy analysis without taking on economic issues, and over the years I have found myself comfortable in a camp that aligns not too far away from Paul Krugman. That gives you an idea of “where I’m coming from.”
Having said all of that, I cannot think of one good reason why anyone should attribute greater value to what I have to say than what anyone else has to say. There are dozens of gifted journalists who have set themselves apart from the swamp of pundits who mill about Washington and New York. There are thousands of blogs expounding from every possible point of view on every conceivable issue. So adding my offerings to the mix may seem almost pointless, and maybe it is. That’s why I say that I write for my own pleasure, but with the hope that there are others here and there who find it worth their time to read it along with me.