I was reading a piece by the great Mark Hemingway this morning about Obama’s “casual slander” of American Christians. As Mark points out:
We’re at the point where the man well-intentioned liberal Christians like [E. J.] Dionne said could end the culture wars [i.e., President Obama] makes a flatly wrong and objectionable assertion that fighting poverty is an afterthought for Christians too often obsessed with abortion, and nobody bats an eye.
How can this be?
The Daily Reality of Christian Life
Now I’m a Catholic, and an ex-Jesuit. When I was professional religious, I spent almost all of my day on three things: education, prayer, and the works of mercy. Among Jesuit communities, priests are assigned duties along those same lines: most are teachers, but you usually get a few chaplains, parish pastors, retreat directors, and various other apostolates. The working day of your average parish priest usually includes the hospital run, where you visit the elderly from your parish. In other words, the daily life of the church is overwhelmingly pastoral. It’s a day-to-day effort to try and minister to people, taking care of their immediate needs. I can speak for the day to day life of my church, but others can speak for their church or synagogue also.
So, in addressing Hemingway’s question — how in the world can the president casually slander the church for not caring enough about the poor? — my answer is because the “most informed man in the world” gets his information from the media. And the daily life of the church is boring to the media; they’d rather report on culture wars, where they can slant the coverage to advance their agenda (usually to promote the sexual revolution).
Where Does President Obama Get His Information?
Remember the story about George W. Bush saying that if he wanted to find out what was going on in the world, he didn’t go to the media, he just called Condoleezza Rice into the Oval Office and asked her? The media was infuriated. Informing people was their prerogative. Shaping perspectives was their privilege. They’re like Capone gangsters dispensing booze. If anyone wants to know what to think, they had better get it from the media. “That’s a nice belief system ya got there – shame if anyt’ing was to happen to it…”
Obama displays a similar attitude. How often does he reveal that — when it comes to important issues — he learns about them the way everyone else learns: from the media? He’s not only an invention of the media, he has become the personification of it. He doesn’t know anything about the reality of the church because the media doesn’t know anything about it either.
Mark’s wife, Mollie, has made a career of displaying how poorly and ignorantly religion is portrayed in the media. I’d argue that the main reason for this is that most reporters don’t have a background in, and aren’t interested in doing the hard work of learning about, religion. To them, religion is boring, repetitive, and spends all of its time on old values held by old people. Old isn’t newsworthy. Young is newsworthy. Different and innovative values – promoted by different and innovative people – now that’s newsworthy. And wrong.
So when Obama claimed that religion spends too much time on sexual issues and neglects the poor, did that confirm your belief? If so, do you get your information on the work of the church (whatever church you belong to) mostly from the media? If you’re not religious, where do you get your information about the church – and do you trust the media to report accurately?