Lisa Miller, at the Washington Post, has a feature profile of religious scholar Mark Silk, whose name will certainly be familier to readers of this blog.
Miller concludes her column by saying, "Silk is reasonable and interesting. He’s not afraid to provoke, but isn’t on anybody’s team. It is perhaps not incidental that his livelihood is not measured in clicks, tweets or viewer ratings. The man’s an academic, which may be why he can elucidate the fray without having to join it." I couldn't agree more, though I would add he also is very funny, and funny in the way only deeply learned people can be. He is also a great panelist on a radio talk show, which was the circumstance by which I first met Silk when we both were on the Colin McEnroe Show at WNPR when my first book came out in 2008. Now, whenever I go home to Connecticut, I try to touch bases with Silk and entertain a very fond memory of he and his wife coming to my family's home there for a BBQ brisket that I had slowly cooked on the grill for twelve hour and which was, in full candor, really delicious.
As I suggested in my post yesterday about Catholic higher education, our culture - any culture - needs its scholars to associate themselves in some kind of dialogue, some kind of society, so that they can be leaven for each other. When I have a perplexing issue about which I want to write, calling someone like Silk to discuss the issue not only helps keep me from making sily mistakes, the conversation can direct me towards research with which I was unfamiliar, an angle on the subject I had not thought of, etc. Silk is not a Catholic but he has a keen sense of how Catholicism is shaped, and how the Church, in turn, has shaped American culture. So much of what one reads on the web is drivel, but Silk's willingness to engage the blogosphere with his learning is one of the reasons that secular reporting on religious matters has become smarter, better informed and more contextualized than it was, say, thirty years ago.
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I am very happy to see that Silk's work has been brought to the attention of a broader audience via Ms. Miller's column. To them both, as multos annos.