If You Don’t ‘Get’ Religion, You Can’t ‘Get’ America or the World
By David French
Why is so much media coverage of religion so dumb?
Honesty is a wonderful thing. Last week, during an interview with Terry Gross, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet made a welcome confession:
I want to make sure that we are much more creative about beats out in the country so that we understand that anger and disconnectedness that people feel. And I think I use religion as an example because I was raised Catholic in New Orleans. I think that the New York–based, and Washington-based too, probably, media powerhouses don’t quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she’s all alone. We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives. And I think we can do much, much better. And I think there are things that we can be more creative about to understand the country.
Baquet is right. If you don’t “get” religion, you can’t understand our country or the world. And yet, reporters and pundits too often cover religion badly, if at all.
The original sin of religion reporting is the failure to believe what religious people say. There’s always an “other” reason for their actions.
In much coverage of American Christianity, this mindset is obvious: You believe that God ordained marriage as the union of a man and a woman? Well, that’s just bigotry in search of a belief system, religion wielded as a club against the marginalized.
Our nation has consistently misunderstood the challenge posed by jihadist terror, too, in part because our secular leaders and reporters often don’t believe jihadists mean what they say.
Too many in the mainstream press believe jihadists are mainly motivated by resentment of colonialism, or by anger over the Iraq war, or by American support for Israel, rather than by the deep and ancient desire to spread fundamentalist Islam across the entire world.
The second sin of religion reporting is believing that ideological inconsistency and moral failings expose the bankruptcy of religious reasoning or the illegitimacy of religious identification…
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