Journalism & the Two Mandates: A Response to Vinay Samuel
By Professor Terry Mattingly
Secular journalism and religious persons do not have a long history of looking to each other for guidance and inspiration. Traditionally, there has been less than high respect for each other’s gods.
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Rather, they have tended to look at each other with silent skepticism, if not open disdain . … journalism is the public’s business, religion supposedly a ‘private affair.’ In the press one turns over a rock to expose the dirt; in the pulpit one turns over the dirt to expose the Rock. In this corner we have the bad news bearers; in the other, the preachers of the good news. (1)
We live and write in an age in which all kinds of groups in the world of religion are being reshaped and their words and rites and symbols are being redefined.
This is news. Many religious groups are growing. Some are in decline. Some are evolving. Some who call themselves Catholics act like Pentecostals and others act like goddess worshipers. There are Pentecostals who are converting to Eastern Orthodoxy, while others meet in megachurches and stage rites that resemble rock concerts. There are Jews who plead for universal religious liberties and those who want to strip gentiles of their right to freedom of speech. It’s a confusing age.
It would be good to be able to read more about these kinds of trends in the morning newspaper. If and when we do see news reports about events of this kind, it would be good to be able to trust what we read. Meanwhile, the Internet allows all kinds of people involved in these events and trends to spread all kinds of information around the world. We do not know if we can trust them, either. In the conventional press, we hear silence or worse. In the new media of cyberspace, we hear all kinds of voices. Where can we find information we can trust?
It, would help if there were more communication, and better communication, between te people who see their calling as turning over rocks to find dirt and those who believe they are called to dig through the dirt to find the Rock. The worlds of journalism and religion are, at times, part of the same equation. The people in these fields often have remarkably similar motivations. Yet they could not possibly live in more different worlds - with different goals and different rules.