JULY 30, 2001
Citing the Sighters
-- Martin E. Marty
Change gives us the chance to take stock of where we are, think about where we have been, and speculate as to where we may be going. I would like to take the occasion of a change in our editorial guard to say a thank you, make an introduction, and describe Sightings and the center from which it issues to a growing readership.
Sightings does not often cite the "sighters." We do so this time to say farewell to Jonathan Moore, who has stewarded this effort from the beginning, and to say hello to Jonathan Ebel, who takes over as editor this month. Both are writing dissertations in American religious history at the University of Chicago: Moore's dissertation is about conservative Christian legal groups, while Ebel's is on religion and the First World War.
Jonathan Moore was the last of a sequence of graduate research assistants without whom I could not have produced much of my scholarly work. I hope that they can testify that I have regarded them as colleagues more than as employees. Our two Public Religion Project books say "Martin E. Marty with Jonathan Moore" on the cover, marking Moore's creative part. When the Public Religion Project phased over into the Divinity School's Martin Marty Center, Moore went along. For two years he has managed this e-mail newsletter effort, done research, solicited writings, edited me, and written well-received columns of his own. We expect all of the above from the second Jonathan, hoping we do not slow down his dissertation-writing too much.
The Marty Center, from which Sightings comes to you, is charged with bringing scholars pursuing advanced research in religion into active conversation with groups drawn from faith communities, civil society, and other parts of higher education. My only involvement with the Center is my weekly contribution to Sightings. When the University pleasantly surprised me with this act of naming, I kept only a parking space in Hyde Park, which may be harder than an office to have and hold! I believe in moving on when moving on, and taking delight in the work of my successors. In addition to Sightings, the Center puts energies into planning conferences and nurturing junior and senior fellows. Its people, events, and publications are devoted to that scholarly pursuit of "religion in public life." Both Jonathans exemplify the Center's mission: the development of first-rate scholars who can address matters of the common good, and do so intelligibly.
How public is Sightings? How many receive these non-ideological (we hope), but not un-opinionated spottings of and comments on religion as it shows up in a once putatively secular culture? As with most things in cyberspace, no one knows. One subscriber, if he likes a column and he says he likes most forwards it to his list of over a thousand linked to him. Another subscriber, a Saskatchewanian, who receives Sightings in a nation whose public life we do not even monitor regularly, forwards it to hundreds. How many hundreds send it to hundreds we do not know. Jonathan Ebel says over sixty responded with messages of "farewell" and "thanks" to Jonathan Moore already this month. I will no longer see Moore as an editor, but as a dissertation advisee. So here is one more greeting in the spirit expressed by so many of you. "Thanks," yes; "Farewell," no. And, oh, yes, looking to Ebel: "Welcome, Jonathan."