Religion In The Media: When Faiths Collide

Yesterday a judge issued his ruling on intelligent design, making pontifical pronouncements far beyond the bounds of his legal responsibilities, including commentary on science and religion, subjects well outside his educational expertise. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute issued an interesting response.

Last night Barbara Walters presented a fascinating look at Heaven, drawing on numerous religious traditions and ending with a reminder to the viewer that: there are 10,000 religions, most of them think Heaven is real, most people think they’re going there and Heaven is a peaceful happy place.

Then this morning, Bruce Feiler, another non-theologically trained popularizer of religion (I’ve interviewed him–great guy–interesting insights), weighed in with an opinion about the place of the Bible in High School Curricula as a history/literature course, thus avoiding the messiness of legal battles.

These stories demonstrate something I’ve been saying for a long time–there is an active discussion in America about spirituality and religion. It also underscores my concerns about the nature of most media treatment of the subject.

1) Most media coverage is divisive, superficial, misinformed &/or biased, boring, intellectually elitist and unmoored.
2) It gets good ratings and sells magazines but does not serve the public well.
3) As is true with most media today, you will seldom find an intelligent, imaginative discussion of anything, certainly not religion and spirituality.
4) In today’s argument culture disagreements are viewed as a form of entertainment not a call to reasoning together to find common ground. People talk past each other, about each other but seldom to each other.

Perhaps the most provocative treatment I’ve read on the subject of discussions of religion in a pluralistic age is from Martin Marty in “When Faiths Collide,” a book published in the UK. Among his points:

1) Tolerance has degenerated into, “I want you to believe as little as I do so we can get along.”
2) Spiritual seekers who do not settle on a religions tradition in which to pursue God are usually unmoored people–rootless individuals on a path leading nowhere.
3) The key to a lively interaction about faith is the rediscovery of “hospitality,” a practice taught in every religious tradition. Being kind and hospitable to those with whom we disagree may be foreign in today’s media culture, but it is virtuous and productive territory encouraged in most religious cultures.

At CFC we are preparing to launch a broadcast/podcast to go after this territory. We aim to create a slow that taps into a spiritual conversation already taking place in daily life; that builds bridges instead of barriers and is informed, intelligent and accessible; and is hosted by a Christian, who is hospitable to the breadth of Christian traditions and other faiths.


1) Pray for us.
2) Send us your feedback and ideas.
3) Consider a generous contribution to this project. (Minimally we need 425,000 dollars in 2006, 660,000 dollars in 2007).

This is what is on my mind just before Christmas 2005!

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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