I regretted to see in the January 2 New York Times that Peter Steinfels was writing his final “Beliefs” column. I’ve rarely missed a Steinfels column over the years. They were consistently respectful and totally devoid of either simplistic advocacy or simplistic criticism. Steinfels attempted to understand and analyze the complexity of religion in contemporary America.
Make no mistake: Take James A. Forbes Jr. away from a pulpit and he is not himself. Forbes’s old friend the late African-American church historian James Melvin Washington used to kid the senior minister of Manhattan’s Riverside Church by saying Forbes “would preach to clear his sinuses.”