Two previous posts have dealt with the media and the culture…
In one post (“We the Media…”) I explained that the mainstream news media gravitates to covering centers of political power while neglecting the most fundamental levels of society such as family, churches, local businesses and community organizations. This undue emphasis on the political has shaped our cultural outlook on politics and the power of the State, causing us to rely more heavily on government bureaucracy rather than personal freedom and the kindness of neighbor-helping-neighbor to solve social ills. We need a return to traditional social structures so that the State does not absorb the power once held by the people.
In a second post (“We the people…of God”) I continued on the same theme, using the “New Jerusalem” from the Book of Revelation as a reference point. The major idea being that our political aspirations are doomed to fail if we neglect God’s plan. We must base our government on principles that acknowledge a Creator and that recognizes certain inalienable rights are from God, not man. Any system that fails to acknowledge God and ignores natural law, which comes from God, becomes tyrannical as it assumes more and more power over life and death, freedom and equality. As Christians we must insist that religion and God be an integral part of our public discourse and help guide our political decision-making
Along this same line of thought, I just read a transcript of a talk given by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver Colorado for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. I encourage everyone to read the entire transcript. The talk (followed by a question and answer session) discussed the media’s coverage of the Catholic Church and the responsibility of good journalism.
The Archbishop expressed concern that journalists who cover religion are often not as informed about the subject as other journalists when covering issues such as economics or politics. In his words:
“No serious media organization would assign a reporter to cover Wall Street if that reporter lacked a background in economics, fiscal monetary policy and these days at least some expertise on Keynesian theory. But reporters who don’t know their subject and haven’t done their homework seem common in the world of religion reporting, at least in my life.”
I would submit that this makes worse the problem I mentioned in my previous posts. When the media attempts to cover religion it often causes more harm than good. Reporters get the story wrong because they do not understand faith, religion, and theology. The culture grows more spiritually impoverished because our sources of news fail to provide correct information or a balanced perspective.
The Archbishop also had this to say:
“Journalism is a vocation, not a job. Pursued properly, journalism should enjoy the same dignity as the law or medicine because the service that journalists perform is equally important to a healthy society. I really believe that. You form people; you form the way they think and the way they live their lives. So journalists have a duty to serve the truth and the common good – not just the crowd, not just the shareholders they work for and not just their personal convictions. In other words, your core business as journalists is to explain in an honest way, with honest context, the forces and characters shaping our lives – our common life – together.”
Journalism certainly does “shape our common life together” which is why it is so important that our faith (which is so essential to our lives and to our culture) is correctly portrayed in the media. The sad fact is that our faith is often trashed and vilified in the media, or at the very least portrayed inaccurately. This makes even more important our task as individuals to engage the culture on matters of faith.
From all of this, we can conclude the following: 1) the media has a natural tendency to augment political power over faith and family, thus diminishing the power of these basic structures in society; 2) our current culture has drifted away from God and away from natural law as taught by our Juedo-Christian heritage, this feeds the power of the State and threatens the freedom and dignity of the individual; 3) when the media does cover religion it is often inaccurate or outright false coverage, which further erodes the culture’s perception of the faith and vilifies the Church.
The only solution is to be a vocal opposition. Change the culture and people’s minds by representing the Truth of our faith in our own lives. Use the media to our own advantage and engage in public discourse. Use every avenue available (newspaper and print, email, blogs, and networking sites) to point toward the Truth.