The News and the Good News
At the time it must have seemed like a minor local story one more disgruntled heretic venting his spleen just as the crucifixion of a Jew in Jerusalem, around what would later be called, in honor of that Jew, A.D. 35, seemed a minor event at the time. At least two others were also crucified in the city that day. Big deal.
Today, even with our 24/7 news coverage, both events would still pass unnoticed. They certainly wouldnt warrant bulletins of the breaking news as it happens variety.
Except when an old pope dies or a new one is elected, religious news hardly counts as news. If you want religious news in the Washington Post, you can find it, as a rule, only on the religion page, buried in the back of the Metro section every Saturday morning. Its so dull and trivial that I usually forget to read it.
By contrast, the Post devotes whole sections to business, sports, and style every day of the year, with additional sections on the arts, travel, books, real estate, and whatnot but not religion in weekend editions. As a human concern, religion seems to rank, for the Post as well as most other newspapers, with stamp-collecting. Youd never guess, from the journalistic attention it receives, that its the most vital part of countless peoples lives and has shaped whole civilizations.
Movies are the same way, of course. How often does Hollywood show people praying? On the big screen, which prides itself on graphic realism, characters vomit more frequently than they pray. Ive yet to see James Bond appeal to the Lord when his life is in danger, maybe because his enemies are always such bad shots anyway. But lets stick to journalism.
Secularist journalism segregates religious news from what it deems real news. It has no place for the biggest news of all time, the Good News of Jesus Christ, who said he was the only way to God the Father. For Christians, the world is divided into those who accept his claim and those who dont. Secularist journalism presupposes his unimportance and therefore the insignificance of his followers.
Journalism, as G.K. Chesterton observed, tells us that Admiral Bangs has died without having told us that Admiral Bangs had been born. It takes notice of religious people only when their activities begin to threaten secularism; it failed to notice the rise of the Christian Right and militant Islam until they had already become impossible to ignore, whereupon it reacted with alarm verging on hysteria.
More recently, secularist journalism has been alarmed to discover that the new Pope is a Catholic. It had hoped for someone more, well, reasonable. After Pope John Paul II died, the Post ran just about the only kind of religious news it reserves for its front page: reports on the discontents of American Catholics, who, it seems, want their Church to adopt the sort of reforms favored by Post editorials (married and female priests, easy divorce, and so forth).
Catholics who oppose the Church, especially progressive priests and nuns, are eligible for news coverage, ample and sympathetic. Faithful Catholics might as well not exist. They show up in the press only when their behavior seems bizarre.
Sexual scandals in the Church also rate attention, though priests who abuse teenage boys are called pedophiles rather than homosexuals; and even Protestant evangelists who chase women warrant journalistic notice. Anything that portrays orthodox Christians as hypocrites is grist for journalisms mill; the hypocrisy of progressives, on the other hand, is off limits. I could tell you some stories, but they wouldnt be news: I didnt read them in the Post.
William Schwenk Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, once wrote to the president of a railway, Sir, Sunday morning, though occurring at frequent and well established intervals, always seems to take this railway by surprise. Its safe to predict that worshipers will continue to make news and even history, but that this will continue to take journalism by surprise.
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