The National Review‘s David French argues that “If You Don’t ‘Get’ Religion, You Can’t ‘Get’ America or the World.” His premise is that “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.
Right. You can believe God ordained just that but you’d have a difficult time proving it from the Bible:
Actually, the idea that people don’t take belief seriously is an argument I have made here as well: that secular people have a difficult time believing that anybody could actually believe what they say they believe.
Belief in a thing called “spiritual warfare” comes to mind. Most non-religious people don’t take it seriously, but I know people who believe very strongly that it is taking place somewhere on a level above our public discourse.
This is the area of angels and demons, and, of course, many have a hard time accepting what hear about this as anything nonsense. But I know people who genuinely believe it. You may too.
That does not mean that all religious fanatics are actually believers. Ther are unscrupulous people who cloak themselves in scripture to attain unsavory goals or use religion to cloak their hate and bigotry in an aura of sanctity.
Another thing French ignores is that it is not just a matter of what journalists might fail to accept as fact based not on what we say they should believe, mind you, but that based even on what they themselves profess to believe, many Religious Right figures are out-and-out hypocrites.
Then there’s the third sin: the belief that a good Google search or a quick Wikipedia read transforms a reporter into a theologian. Few things are more irritating than the argument that, “If you really believed the Bible then you’d . . . ” followed by a theological interpretation of such profound stupidity that you’d be embarrassed for the reporter if he or she had an ounce of shame.
Sort of like all the evangelicals using fake science to justify their religious beliefs. Talk about embarrassing.
Let’s remember for a moment that most atheists and indeed, Heathens like me, were once Christians and grew up with the Bible. It’s not as if many of us don’t know what it says just as well as evangelicals, or, in some cases, even better. We know what the Bible says. We know what it doesn’t say, and often, evangelicals cannot say the same.
I have read the Bible more often and more thoroughly in the 37 years since my Heathen epiphany than in the two decades of life as a Lutheran. I have at least 100 books on Jewish and Christian matters on my bookshelf, and I am hardly alone in this among non-evangelicals.
David French says non-religious people don’t understand belief but my own Lutheran relatives laugh at the nonsense spouted by French’s evangelicals.
When the entirety of the Bible comes down for evangelicals to a holy war on gay people, maybe it’s time they re-read the Bible and discover all the other myriad wonderful sins attacked in its pages, Old and New Testament, including the worship of money over God. There is quite a bit more of the latter than of the former.
There is simply no way if they really believe what they claim, that they could endorse Donald Trump as president. That isn’t voting your beliefs, it is setting your beliefs aside in saying hatred of Hillary Clinton is more important than their beliefs.
I have an evangelical relative who admits to having done exactly this, justifying by claiming it’s okay because Trump picked evangelical culture warrior Mike Pence as his running mate. The problem is, you still have Trump.
It is true then that some people have a difficult time understanding religion, but French also ignores that religious people can have a difficult time understanding non-religious people, or people of other belief systems.
Again, that same evangelical relative believes that by definition Christians are better people than everyone else. They will talk about it among themselves, with sage head-nodding accompanying each word. When you arm yourself with an imagined innate moral superiority, you’re not going to spend much time trying to understand what other people think, or why. They’re just wrong. Period.
And this is the result we see. False persecution narratives and martyrdom at every voice raised in opposition to the Religious Right’s culture war and no attempt at all made to understand why people might just oppose being deprived of rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution on the basis of one group’s religious book when the Constitution says very clearly,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
French says, “Surrender is not an option when the human soul hangs in the balance.” How about when your soul means we lose our rights? Or our education because somebody says their god has a plan for my schools?
It seems pretty clear that if non-religious people, including journalists (who give religious people a LOT of air-time) don’t always understand believers, those same believers made very little attempt to understand the “non-believers” they’re criticizing.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.