April 4, 2005
Martin E. Marty
Never, never let go unchallenged the observations that our nation and its world used to be more religious, that citizens used to pay more attention to religion, that the media used to do more with religion than they do today. Once a year I do a reality check, simply noting the stories that in one day feature religious themes in a major way. Your eyes may glaze over by the end, but I hope the point will have been made. Note the diversity. Yes, six items dealt with the Schiavo case, two were on Muslims in Iraq -- but datelines also included Milwaukee, Malawi, Colorado, Afghanistan, Washington, Florida, Israel, and New York. Among the religions referred to were Orthodox Judaism, Scientology, Catholicism, white supremacist, Shi'ite and Sunni Islam, Russian Orthodoxy, World Religions, and American pop culture. You need higher education in religious studies to keep up.
From four newspapers I perused last Tuesday:
"Colorado Court Bars Execution Because Jurors Consulted Bible," [inside:] "Court Bars Death after Jurors Turn to Bible"; "Sunni Leader Vows Support for Insurgents," [inside:] "Sunni Leader, Courted by Iraqi Politicians, Backs Violence Against U.S. Troops"; "Court Rejects Use of Bible by Jurors"; [re: "animism" and spiritual advisers:] "A Ghost Story Turns Very Scary for Malawi Journalists"; [re: Shi'ite vs. Sunni Muslims:] "Talks on Power-Sharing Drag On, Dogged by Violence in the Field and Bickering in Baghdad"; [re: right-wing religious donors:] "List of Schiavo Donors Will Be Sold by Direct-Marketing Firm"; [re: teens' aggressively religious T-shirt messages, with illustrations:] "Wearing Their Beliefs on Their Chests: A Display of Faith or an Advertisement of Hipness?"
[Re: the Christian Defense Coalition, etc.:] "Schiavo's Husband Says Autopsy Will End Suspicions"; "Finding Stress, and Some Friction: Scientologists Bump Up Against Subway Regulations"; [re: Milwaukee Living Church of God murders, illustrated with white crosses:] "Motives Remain a Mystery: Friends Try to Fathom Why Computer 'Nerd' Killed 7 during Church"; "Police Chief Slain; Pilgrims March: Thousands of Shiites Defy the Insurgents Threats of Violence"; [re: white supremacist on trial:] "Hale Puts Faith in Being Own Lawyer"; [re: the "ultra-Orthodox" Shas Party:] "Israeli Parliament Rejects Gaza Referendum"; [re: the profound religious commitment of Catholic convert Gov. Jeb Bush:] "2-Year Fight Is Closing in 'Heartbreak'"; [re: friend Huston Smith's career:] "Drugs, History Inspire Study of Religion Over Half-Century."
Now on to commentary:
[Re: Buddhist statues ruined in Afghanistan and religious argument over Mrs. Schiavo and the constitution:] "When Sentiment and Fear Trump Reason and Reality: 'Fact' Is Established by Fiat, with the Aid of Marketing Skills"; [re: the religious right and others:] "Life and Death Could Bind Left and Right"; "Russian Church-State Line Blurs: Religion's Triumph in Art Fight Raises Fear of Civil-Liberties Curbs."
Then come the editorials:
"Making Muslims Part of the Solution"; [next, two on religion
in the Schiavo case:] "When Life Begins to Hang in the Balance"
and "Going to Extremes in the Schiavo Case"; [re: some comments
on conservative evangelicals:] "Leaders of the Opposition";
[re: Tom DeLay and God and politics:] "What's Going On?"
Yes, what is?!?
Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com.