The hottest Protestant story of the year was the installation of openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, but reporters on that story treated it as a milestone against discrimination, focusing on its political impact, not its scriptural or theological implications. Most of the TV time on the happy-talk morning shows went to Robinson and his supporters (10 interviews to just one for an opponent). Just like in other political stories on the gay issue, the labeling was very imbalanced, since Robinson's critics within the church were described as "conservatives" 42 times, but Robinson's supporters drew just five "liberal" labels. Robinson himself was so revered that not once was he ever described as either "liberal" or even as an "activist." (Now ask how many times you've seen the label "conservative" and much worse attached to Pope John Paul.)
Yes, the networks love progressive fads, religious or secular, but they remained hostile to the most traditional interpretations of religion. One example was Gibson's "Passion," which was the biggest supposed anti-Semitism hubbub of the year, if not in the last decade or two. (Erupting as a "hate speech" hot button in August, it didn't become a story about Christian inspiration until the advance-ticket sales began in mid-February.) How sick is that? We have suicide bombers blowing up buses in Israel and very real anti-Semitism on the march in Europe, but the TV networks located the worldwide danger zone for Jews as the space between Mel Gibson's ears.
Progressive religious fads often emerge from academia, where professors can be located to tout -- as the most credible, objective, social-scientific findings -- loopy conspiracy theories like "The DaVinci Code" or phony "gospels" that teach Jesus was less like God and more like a profound Grateful Dead groupie. Sadly, the media's Rolodex of religion experts was dominated by academics who are hostile to religious orthodoxy. They are never described for the viewer at home as boutique liberals or hard-line secularists.
In short, the media have taken a burst of passionate Christian enthusiasm for an orthodox movie, and responded with an increase of religion programming that too often dismisses rather than debates that very orthodox vision. When surveys of the national media have shown that half of journalists are religiously unaffiliated and 86 percent never attend church or synagogue, it's not a surprise that they just don't get it.
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