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13 Oct

The Religious Right Isn’t Very Christian

Whenever you consider a non secular leader, it’s likely that person is Christian, male, politically conservative, willing to leap in front of a camera. 

Someone like Recent York Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan, for instance, or Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist megachurch pastor.

Often this man shouldn’t be the leader of a selected congregation, denomination or faith in any respect, but is just a member of a conservative group that calls itself religious, like Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition. Pat Robertson and the Moral Majority. James Dobson and Give attention to the Family. Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council. 

These media-friendly veteran quote machines, who’ve been around for 30, 40, 50 years, have been shaping the narrative and shifting the general public perception of “religion” right into a slick, well-produced opponent of things like LGBTQ rights and abortion access, amenable to Republican politicians and anathema to single women. 

However the ubiquity of those men has less to do with any suitability to talk on behalf of spiritual people—there are numerous religious leaders who’d be just as suited to achieve this—and more to do with the willingness of corporate media to offer them platforms, prominence, and, most significantly, the good thing about the doubt as to the sincerity of their faith. 

Nowhere was that more apparent than during coverage of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The relegation of abortion access to state governments was seen as a victory for Christians and, story after story, presumed their opposition to abortion was rooted not in a desire for power or political victory but in obedience to God. 

“Because the Catholic Church, because the pro-life movement, generally speaking we have a good time the tip of Roe but we even have a variety of work to do in our home state, too,” said Brittany Vessely, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference. 

For many who don’t support abortion, today is seen as a serious victory. 

Roe v. Wade is finished,” said Vessely. “Now it’s within the states and what’s going to be very interesting is we’re going to see a variety of pro-life states start getting stronger and promoting a sanctity of life and a variety of pro-abortion states like Colorado doing the exact opposite.”

Reporters took  their words about prayers and supposed reverence for the sanctity of life at face value, while questioning the very real consequences of assorted states’ abortion bans

Non-Christian religions or Christian denominations whose adherents don’t oppose abortion were relegated to “well, not ALL religious leaders think that is great news” stories that implied they were exceptions to the rule, aberrations, and that almost all opinion was the more relevant one. 

Corporate media has followed this formula on countless issues: marriage equality, trans rights, access to contraception, fairness in any and all accommodation to faith. “Religion” is presumed to motivate, if not require, opposition to equality. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex unions, the Tampa Bay Times quoted six Christian “leaders” and two Jewish ones, and 7 of the eight sources were against it.

Some faith traditions welcome and honor gay and trans people, while other faith traditions say little about sexual mores. Many religions require as strenuous an effort to take care of the poor as they do to limit women’s roles—but all these nuances are sometimes lost in quick-hit coverage that has room for one “religious” leader to offer one quote. 

Economics plays a transparent role here. A general lack of understanding about religious issues pervades journalism; just last month a serious market research survey found that few newsrooms consider specialized reporting in religion a necessity, and that “hollowing out” of information creates coverage rife with stereotypes and misapprehensions concerning the role various faith traditions play in public life. 

So does political propaganda. The religious right isn’t a latest force in American politics and the editors and producers working today at the best levels of corporate journalism were raised within the overwhelming era of ref-working against the “liberal media” with charges that every one journalists were anti-religious. The religious left—including the Roman Catholic cohort that marched for Civil Rights and campaigned to finish apartheid—all but disappeared from coverage within the Eighties as abortion rose to prominence in GOP circles as the issue to motivate religious voters. 

But none of those forces excuses reporters from accountability for the sources they use and promote. The character of their job dictates skepticism toward any and all powerful actors in and upon society, including religious ones. Granting the credibility that comes with the label “faith leader” is something news stories do daily without anyone considering twice about it. It’s well past time they began subjecting these same religious figures to the scrutiny they’d give a mean politician or leftist activist. 

America’s religious picture is far more diverse, ideologically and otherwise, than the typical “religion versus Democrats” stories would have audiences imagine. Many alternative faith traditions promote women into leadership, solemnize same-sex unions, and even inside those that don’t the adherents to those traditions are sometimes more liberal than not. A majority of U.S. Roman Catholics imagine abortion must be legal in most circumstances, and one quarter of American abortion patients are Catholic.  

By treating people of religion who favor abortion rights or LGBTQ equality as in the event that they don’t exist, the company media creates an image of faith that doesn’t match the experience most individuals have of others’ faith and their very own. Corporate media create the impression that when you are a liberal who attends church or believes in God, there aren’t any others on the market such as you, pushing back against the white male leadership that gets the headlines.

Pseudo-religious charlatans have existed for the reason that dawn of time, making golden calves and suggesting people worship them as gods, but project editors should let their calls go to voice mail. 

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