In the last week, several journalists have addressed the issue of how journalists should talk with politicians about religion. Ross Douthat followed up on his August 29th column with a blog post providing examples of what he is trying to address. And last Friday, Amy Sullivan provided a number of steps journalists could take in order to write intelligently about the religious beliefs of politicians.
This brings several thoughts to mind:
1. What happened to religion writers among major newspapers or magazines? I think most of them have disappeared, even respected ones like Catherine Falsani who used to write for the Chicago Sun-Times. At a time when religion is alive and influential around the world, media sources don’t have dedicated people who can comment on these particular issues. Asking political writers to write about topics they don’t regularly cover seems like a problem. I know media outlets have had to make major cutbacks in certain areas but there are repercussions for this.
2. The burden seems to be on politicians who have “non-mainstream” religious beliefs to explain how they are not dangers to society. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Americans have more unfavorable feelings toward minority religions like Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists/non-religious (not quite a minority “religion”). Of course, much of this debate could really be about whether evangelicals are mainstream or not. Their size would suggest they are mainstream as would their political influence since the late 1970s.