John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A limit to Anglican tolerance

Anglicans, taking one with another, are a broad-minded and tolerant sort — a colleague once congratulated me on our magnanimity in not resenting the pope and his followers for having broken away from the Church of England. But I cringed this morning on my way to church as I heard a news reader on NPR refer to reaction to a previous story about conservative “Episcopals.”

Please, dear people at NPR and journalists elsewhere, keep always in mind that if you report on religion you must master the lingo. And each branch you encounter will have its own distinctive nomenclature, fatally easy to get wrong.

For purposes of the U.S. Episcopal Church, one branch of the Anglican Communion:

Episcopal (adj.)

Episcopalian (n.)

Episcopalians are members of Episcopal congregations, NOT Episcopals are members of Episcopalian congregations. The Episcopal Church — not the Episcopalian Church — is an episcopal polity (with authority given to bishops).

Do say it over to yourselves two or three times.

Then go and sin no more.

Information without knowledge

I’ve just started reading a very promising book, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, by Charles P. Pierce.

From page 8: “The rise of Idiot America today reflects—for profit, mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power—the breakdown of the consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people we should trust the least are the people who know best what they’re talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert."

In my own parochial way, I said something similar earlier this year in a post, “Crisis of authority.” But Mr. Pierce makes the point more forcibly and more entertainingly: America “is drowning in information and thirsty for knowledge” and suffering from “lazy, pulpy tolerance for risible ideas.”

If you are curious about these risible ideas, his introduction describes a visit to the Creation Museum in Hebron, Kentucky, where visitors can marvel at a model of a dinosaur wearing an English saddle — since, of course, human beings and dinosaurs were contemporaneous when the world began in 4004 B.C.

Expect a fuller report once I finish the book.