The New York Times is adding a position:

Faith and values correspondent

We’re seeking a skilled reporter and writer to tap into the beliefs and moral questions that guide Americans and affect how they live their lives, whom they vote for and how they reflect on the state of the country. You won’t need to be an expert in religious doctrine. The position is based outside of New York, and you will work alongside Laurie Goodstein and a team of other journalists who are digging deep into the nation.

Two cheers for them! I’m glad they’re adding this position, and I’m really glad they’re not basing this reporter in New York (I hope they don’t base him or her in any coastal city, or in Chicago, but rather someplace like Dallas or Atlanta). Why not three cheers? That line about how “you won’t need to be an expert in religious doctrine” bothers me. If they were advertising for a sports reporter, would they advise that one didn’t need to be expert in the rules of various games they would be covering? Or if they wanted to hire an economics correspondent, would they feel compelled to say that the reporter wouldn’t need to be expert in finance?

I don’t want to read too much into this, and to unfairly knock a good-faith (so to speak) effort. Certainly a general-news “faith and values” correspondent doesn’t need to be able to give a detailed explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity, or parse the finer points of sharia according to the Hanafi school. But the reporter certainly should be able to understand why doctrine matters to religious thought and belief. My concern here is that the Times is inadvertently minimizing the importance of religious knowledge, along the lines of, “You don’t really have to understand how religion works in order to report on it in the lives of ordinary Americans.”

I doubt very much that that’s what the Times editors mean to convey with that line. But what do they mean to convey? Anyway, get your CV in if you’re game for the job. Any of you have suggestions for who ought to apply for this position? I say The Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway, who would also bring some much needed diversity of thought to the newspaper’s pages.