Why Do the Media Have Such a Problem with Christianity?

Recently, I have been wondering about the problem the media seem to have with Christianity. I am not referring to mere religious illiteracy (about which I have written more than enough already) but to a fundamental inability to accept that Christians, of whatever denomination, actually believe what they say they believe. The little furore caused by the C_of_E’s recent tweet about praying for Richard Dawkins is a case in point. All Christians believe that we have a duty of prayer for others, irrespective of what those others believe/do not believe or whether we like/dislike them or agree/disagree with their views. Indeed, Christians have a special duty of prayer for those who are their enemies or wish to do them harm. But it was interpreted by many as mockery or trolling of a sick man, which is a perverse interpretation, if ever there was one.

We now have the media poring over the friendships of John Paul II and suggesting, oh so craftily, that there was something wrong with the pope’s having friends of both sexes — and especially one who was, horrors, not only another philosopher but a married woman, too. While conceding, a little reluctantly, that there is no evidence that either broke their vows, the commentators hang their salacious hints in the air. It is character assasination by innuendo. At the heart of it is something both sad and troubling: the assumption that all friendship is sexual, and that a marriage vow is trifling and a promise of celibacy lightly to be put aside. One does not have to be a Catholic to know that is nonsense, and an injustice to the millions of men and women who have lived faithful, loving lives and enjoyed the gift of friendship over the centuries. It seems that cynicism rules. People do not mean what they say.

The trouble with the media view of Christianity is not just that it is false but that it is becoming pervasive. If we are constantly being told that people don’t believe what they profess to believe, we will create a culture in which distrust reigns supreme. Lack of trustworthiness is something we have already registered in many different areas of life. Isn’t it time those of us who claim to be Christians challenged this perverse narrative before it becomes universally accepted? Lent is a time of spiritual warfare. To arms, then, in the service of Truth!



13 thoughts on “Why Do the Media Have Such a Problem with Christianity?”

  1. I agree there needs to be a high standard of journalism so that mischief is not the news story of the day. I did read the story concerning Pope John Paul II in an online news service today and I thought it was unfair to both John Paul II and his friend. It does seem that friendship between well-known people can be made to seem something else and editors with a high standard of professional ethics should make sure stories have a factual basis.

    I don’t think Christianity should have a special immunity from scrutiny though. We strive to live out our beliefs but don’t always succeed. Media should make sure of the facts before printing something.

    • No one is suggesting Christianity should be free from scrutiny, least of all me. I am simply concerned with this increasing sense that Christians are always hypocrites is actually affecting more than just Christians.

  2. Your comments are so true. They remind me of a comment my RE teacher told us “promises are made to be broken” !!! I also remember a a C of E bishop not believing in the virgin birth. Education and wrong examples always stick in the mind more than good, thus I agree we need to work harder providing a good example.

    • I don’t know either, but I don’t think you can blame atheism for this. Most of the atheists I know are people of great integrity. But I do think something has crept into media coverage of Christianity that is profoundly cynical and has implications for society at large.

    • If you’re referring to Justin Welby’s recent interview, he has already publicly said he wished he’d never said what he did, because of the headlines. However, owning up to struggling with faith sometimes seems to me to be wonderfully honest and encouraging for the many who also know they struggle. If you ever listen to him, he is SO Jesus centred, his faith is not watered down Protestantism. Of course, you may have been talking about something else, in which case I apologise!

      I admire both the Holy Father and the Archbishop enormously

  3. Wonderful, thought-provoking piece…
    I do wonder whether something deeply unconscious and/or archetypal is taking place.

    Might it be that those in the media are, in a sense, projecting their own hopelessness onto the Church? Might they be unable to bear, as in cope with (or maybe even envy?), something which is, or has, what they have not – but desperately crave – deep within? Is True love too much for them to hope for in this broken world? Might there be an smouldering cynicism: ‘If I can’t see the possibility of having it, why should he (Pope St JP2)?’.

    If this is the case, then it seems to be a wonderful proof of the objectivity of true goodness and the soul’s restlessness without God.

    This is why, to me, a Jubilee Year of Mercy, is an opportunity to become transformed in Christ – learn to be permanently merciful/divinised – and is what people desperately want to hear in their relationships: from other human beings who incarnate/radiate the message of Christ.

    Maybe, rather than Apologetics and ‘Evangelisation’ – which is nearly always a dogfight on their turf of reason and experience – we ought to be showing the fruits of the Christ life (as Pope St JPII did): that the fruit of Holy Communion, is human communion?

    Is this what we need to make pervasive? Not yet another narrative, but a completely different way of being, as that great saint outlined in all his work?

  4. As an atheist and as a supporter of Richard Dawkins, I also find it sad that sincere prayers for anyone should be regarded as mockery or trolling. Personally, I am delighted if people think me worthy of being the recipient of heartfelt good wishes, whether those be expressed as prayers or simply good thoughts, and I hope that my religious friends view my good wishes in the same light as they would view a co-religionist’s prayers.

    Furthermore, while there are undoubtedly a few people who use religion as a means of furthering their own (sometimes nefarious) purposes, I have no doubt that followers of a religion in the vast majority of cases truly believe in that religion, just as I have no doubt that atheists in most cases truly don’t believe in any deity. Acceptance of the sincerity of both believers and non-believers (however misguided one group thinks the other group is), together with a recognition of the importance of common humanity, should surely be the basis of any discussion.

  5. Perhaps the BBC, or rather British Broadcasting Communism is in serious need of an overhaul.
    St JPII is not the first to be pointed at but as a Saint closely scrutinised by a Papal office, it is disgusting that these innuendos should be aired or printed.

  6. I believe the bottom line is that modern pop culture is all about “me”, i.e.: I don’t choose to believe anything anyone says because all I care about is my own opinion and I’m the only voice I care to listen to . If I don’t believe what you believe in then I’ll denigrate and insult your beliefs and values, call you a liar and that’s ok because I am my own amoral god.

    It has little or nothing to do with differences between religions and denominations or with atheists because as Sister and Ruth Meyer in her comments above indicate, integrity and goodwill are beautiful traits found in humankind regardless of personal religious beliefs or non-belief. Pop culture seldom promotes the golden rule, is wildly disrespectful of people who aren’t perfect magazine models and is driven by the love of money.

    Christians are a particularly great target for getting one’s jollies because our belief system is the antithesis of what is preached in media. Advent and Lent seem to be great opportunities for Christian bashing because it is widely known that these are very holy seasons for us and because we’re expected to turn the other cheek. We’ve long been labelled hypocrites, now we’re also homophobes if we follow Christ’s teachings and some go so far as to label our Bible hate literature. Never mind that many hospitals, schools and charities would fold without our financial support, just keep taking pot shots at us, just as Jesus was taunted.

    I think the best I can do is try my best to live my Christian beliefs, and when challenged patiently explain them, as well as pray for those who mock our faith, remembering that Jesus promised we’d all have our cross to bear as his disciples. I do believe that the persecution of Christians is gaining momentum in the western world fueled by participation with evil and unfortunately the worst is yet to come.

  7. Thanks for a good summary of how the media treats Christianity. It does seem that they’re on the look out for any hint of scandal, whether justified or not, and than set out to print it and make the story up as they go along.

    The example over praying for Richard Dawkins was just one such case – whether or not we agree with his ideas, doesn’t mean that we have to disrespect his humanity. He is entitled for those of us with good will to pray for his recovery.

    But the issues with Pope John Paul is entirely speculative. In today’s sexualised society, there can not be any sort of platonic friendship between a man or woman or Priest and Laity, without some sort of suspicion that there must be something more to the relationship than simple friendship.
    I do find that tiring, I have many female friends, of both of us, and some of whom are just my friends, people that I meet on my Lay Ministry training course, who are never likely to meet my spouse, but who are sharing that training alongside other men and women – in God’s service and isn’t looked at askance?

    I can remember someone writing about religious illiteracy o the media, I think that it was Bishop Nick Baines, and their tendency towards ignorance and being puerile – nothing seems to have changed since than.

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