The New York Times seems have divided up religion on its op-ed page Crossfire-style. From the left, Nicholas Kristof. From the right, David Brooks. And just like on Crossfire, the left is middle and muddled and the right slot is filled by guy who’s genius at sounding smart while saying dumb things.

If only Brooks could quit carrying water for an agenda. He has wit, but he sacrifices wisdom on the altar of the Republican platform.

Latest case in point is yesterday’s column on keeping “under God” in the pledge. Don’t let his discussion of Martin Luther King, Jr., fool you — this column is an amicus brief for Pledge conservatives.

Our beef with Brooks isn’t a matter of opposition to that cause. It’s the way he uses the authority of religion without any discussion of its substance, writing of a “biblical wisdom [that] is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences.”

Instead of offering his own vision of why that’s so, he pushes a man of vision — MLK — onstage as if to say, “Look right here, ladies and gents! Gen-u-ine evidence that my miracle cure will cure whatever ails you!”

Maybe the Bible will, maybe it won’t, but Brooks’ citation of one “presuppositional”biography of King doesn’t make the case in either direction.

Just as Kristof uses religion as a bullhorn rather than as a foundation for his center-left crusades, Brooks employs it bait-and-switch style in service of conventional conservative politics — and we do mean politics, not policies.

Which is an odd strategy for a journalist who decries the “soulless utility-maximizers” of secularist thought, a move that is itself a bluntly utilitarian reduction of the varieties of secular experience.

It’s too bad that the Times‘ attempt to pay more attention to the role of religion in the world — a smart idea — has resulted in Tweedle-dee, Tweedle-dum theology that sees religion as a justification rather than exploring the justifications of religion.

The Revealer on Kristof:
“The ‘God Gulf’ at The New York Times
“Ultimate Concerns”

The Revealer on Brooks:
“God’s Gay Marriage”
“High Fretting Over Who You’ll Meet in Heaven”
“Does History Have Meaning?”

Other takes on yesterday’s column: “Political Theology”“The Times Goes Fundie”“Fire David Brooks”“Brooks, The Bible, & the Public Square”“David Brooks Licks His Master’s Boots.” Seems one-sided, we know. We looked for support for Brooks, but all we could find was this vote of confidence from gun-toting AnnaZ.

Let’s get back to the issue at hand. The Revealer remembers: “I pledge alledgiance, to the flag…” So do these folks: William Safire (NYT), Charles Lane (Washington Post), Warren Richey(Christian Science Monitor); Barry C. Lynn & Michael Perry (The American Prospect);Elisabeth Sifton (The Nation); A Baltimore Sun piece on the man who proposed adding “under God”; a bunch of kids (CSM); and more kids (Indianapolis Star).