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!