Never on Sunday?

My friend Kenneth Woodward, former religion writer at Newsweek, has sent me abriefnotice that I am happy to pass on. It reflectsKen's love of exposingthe secular blinders at my former employer, The New York Times.I have a different view of the matter, especially in this instance, but frankly Ken's jabs are salutary, and defensiveness is uncalled for. The Times can take it. I reserve my own comments for below.Ken writes:For the past couple of years, or for long as it has existed, Ive been readingreligiously, you might saya short weekly column in the Sunday New York Times Metro section called Sunday Routine. It features a tightly edited interview with a locally prominent New Yorker about how he or she spends Sunday. I read it because it is a revealing peephole into the newsroom culture of the Times.Last weeks interview was with Dennis Walcott, chancellor of New York Citys Department of Education who lives in Queens. What makes the piece striking is that Walcott is the first person featured in this column who, in my monitoring of it, has ever acknowledged going to church. Among the three accompanying photos there is even one of a robed Walcott singing in his church choir, as if in proof of his odd Sunday habit.To be sure I may have missed one or two other New York notables whose Sunday routine includes church. And of course a lot of the chosen are Jews who may have worshipped on the Sabbath. But the column recalls to mind an ad campaign some years back The Times ran to promote its Sunday edition. It showed a handsome couple, perhaps married, coffee in hand, lounging in bed reading different sections of the Sunday paper.Which raises the question: are prominent New Yorkers not likely to be the kind of folks who worship God on Sunday? Or does the choice of whom to feature in Sunday Routine say something about the culture of the people and paper doing the selecting? Is it the mirror or the lamp?Check Walcott out here. It could be years before church appears as a part of another New Yorkers Sunday Routine.

Peter Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal and religion writer for the New York Times, is a University Professor Emeritus at Fordham University and author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

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