Big Media's Spiritual Illiteracy

Big Media's Spiritual Illiteracy

By John Mallon

It is always fascinating when religion and American politics intersect. It is especially interesting watching the big media attempt to deal with the questions raised. Countless polls have revealed that journalists are likely to be more liberal and less religious than their fellow Americans. 

The fact is that overall, the American media remains clueless when it come to the language of faith—illiterate even. This is a problem for them now as we enter into the second term of George W. Bush, where faith is suddenly an issue—a political issue. 

The modern journalist is trained largely in the language of politics where the objective is to win, and perhaps do some good along the way. And a life where the main, if not the only objective is winning, whether it be the presidency or a Pulitzer Prize is bound to pick up some cynicism along the way. But along comes George W. Bush, a religious man, whose sincerity and simplicity, both in governing and living—and religious belief—has set the Blue State folks—also known as the "Media Elite"—on their collective ears. "Where' the angle?" they wonder. 

Like President Reagan before him, George W. Bush has the "elites" baffled. And what is more baffling to the cynical than sincerity? Thus the media don't know what to make of him. And because they can't comprehend him they mock him, as they mocked Reagan as "stupid." Meanwhile more of Reagan's earlier writings are revealing him not just to be a genuine thinker, but a true political philosopher.

Thus, Time magazine, in their February 7 issue devoted its cover and a large amount of space to a report entitled, "the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America." Also on the cover they add the tantalizing questions addressed in two accompanying stories: "What does Bush owe them?" and "Do the Democrats need religion?" 

Regarding the second question, we see Democrats attempting to adopt the language of faith and launching committees and task forces on how to do it. The writer, Perry Bacon, Jr., rightly concludes that "the biggest risk for the party is to come off as insincere. Religious voters might like the music, but their unlikely to be seduced by it as long as Democrats stick to their core positions."

Yes, it requires actual belief. And principles. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker said this very well in a November 13 column entitled "Faking God." 

But what of the Media? In my last column on, "The Radical's Dilimma," (February 2), I referred to the sputtering despair expressed by Garry Wills and Thomas Friedman after the election in the New York Times editorial pages. 

It must be admitted that, as journalist Bernard Goldberg has pointed out in his books "Bias" and "Arrogance," the major media in the United States is so enmeshed in their bias that they cannot recognize it. They are blind to their own presuppositions. Their bias is their world and they do not venture out of it. 

You can no sooner explain their bias to them than you can explain wetness to a fish. Liberalism is the sea in which they swim and those who do not belong are intellectually inferior, the great unwashed. And this is the sort of pride that blocks faith from taking root and providing deeper insight.

Religious faith is a near universal in human history and culture. And it is deeply wrapped up in the American story. Whether one embraces it or not, it at least deserves respectful recognition as a reality that influences most of the world's people. While believers may often behave badly, as history shows, it does not nullify belief's validity.

They refer to as "The Religious Right" as if it represented a hostile alien species instead of fellow citizens with valid concerns. The so-called "Religious Right" also represents the traditional American beliefs that got this nation through the past 229 years: respect for human life, family and country. 

A worldview that excludes belief from consideration has gaps and holes in it. It is close-minded and uninformed about reality and fails to see the whole picture. It is ironic that in the most educated of civilizations and among the most educated classes, ignorance of the centrality of religion to human culture seems also to be at an all time high. Without respect for it those writing the first draft of history are not telling the whole story.