The Media’s Secular Orthodox Church

The Easter celebration of the redemptive death and miraculous resurrection of Christ is a suitable occasion to remember that the religious believer in America has to recognize the difference between finding a way to God and finding a way through the news of the world.

It’s a stunning disconnect. The creators and salesmen of news are the least likely people to see the world through what might be called an eternal perspective. Rarely do they offer reverent silence on the sacred, while happily profiting from the profane. The media’s tone on religious questions is predictably wary of demanding ancient dogmas, preferring a comfortably modernist rethinking of religion, one that acknowledges that primitive men once had primitive creeds, but now — Thank God? — we’ve built up enough of a deposit of worldly wisdom to see through them. They have the arrogance to form God in their own image.

They think of themselves as the manufacturers of the latest trend, the publicists of the latest passion, the keepers of the most sophisticated daily zeitgeist. You won’t find framed and posted on their walls the C. S. Lewis adage “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”

In 2004, the media were shocked to discover that President Bush was re-elected by a flock of people they clinically identified as “values voters,” people who marched to the polls in resistance to liberal agenda items like unlimited partial-birth abortion and the “marriage” of two men or two women, or perhaps trios and quartets as the progressive future unfolds. These journalists had every right to be surprised. After all, they’d worked so very hard to ignore opponents to this agenda, or dismiss them as an unhealthy threat to the Jeffersonian notion of the separation of church and state.

Since every poll taken of reporters finds them measurably less religious than the average American, it’s not surprising that they miss what traditionally religious Americans perceive as the real and growing threat to church-state separation: the state dictating to the church what its creed can and cannot include, and the media presuming that they will direct the faithful by using the unfaithful.

The Media Research Center has published its annual survey of religion news on the Big Three broadcast networks, and while the number of religion stories was in decline, what never seems to diminish is the media’s secularizing impulses. Take the dispute over some Catholic bishops stating that John Kerry was made unsuitable for the sacrament of the Eucharist by his long public career of voting for, and hailing the women’s “liberation” of abortion on demand. In a January 2003 speech before NARAL Pro-Choice America, Kerry had hailed retiring leader Kate Michelman as having “saved more women's lives and liberated more women than almost anyone.”

The networks barely touched this issue, but when they did, they knew who they were going to “watchdog.” The Catholic Church, not Kerry. CBS released a poll touting how “78 percent” of Catholics disapproved of the bishops disapproving of Kerry. But as with so many surveys of this nature, it was disingenuous. CBS was acting like….well, CBS. CBS did not poll practicing Catholics, but simply asked anyone who claimed to be Catholic, even if he hadn’t seen the inside of a church since he was 12.

See how the media presumed to direct the creeds of the faithful (bishops trying to uphold church teachings) by using the opinions of the unfaithful (who were more likely to be Kerry voters). But the real poll came in November, and even the Kerry-friendly network exit polls showed Bush beating Kerry among all the self-proclaimed Catholics, 52 to 47 percent. Those courageous bishops who spoke out for the Church and the unborn didn’t win every Catholic at the polls, but they called on the faithful to make their faith known in the world. And many did.

The Old Media should launch their own organized religion called the Secular Orthodox Church. Their reporting carries with it an arrogant insistence that all wisdom comes from saying that God has to be compartmentalized into Someone we only consult at meals or at bedtime — under our breath, of course, lest anyone be offended. The dogma of their orthodoxy insists God should not be allowed to have any influence in our legislatures, in our schools, in our music and movies, or in our voluntary associations like the Boy Scouts. We have a duty not only to separate church and state, but to separate church from education, church from entertainment, church from everything we share with each other in public.

How sad for them that so many Americans continue to find their God in ancient creeds and dusty books, leaving these secularists puzzled that their urgently up-to-date wisdom has been so mysteriously rejected.

(L. Brent Bozell III is the founder and president of the Media Research Center. His column appears courtesy of the Media Research Center.)

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