When Journalists Don't Get Religion
A Canadian newspaper once cited as evidence of resurgent American extremism that President Bush claimed that “God wants people to be free.” That, of course, is the extremism of the Declaration of Independence. It is the extremism of Abraham Lincoln, who argued that “nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.” It is the extremism of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who proclaimed that “man, born to freedom in the image of God, will not forever suffer the oppressors’ sword.” A journalist who ignores or dismisses this kind of public argument is ignoring a central tenet in the philosophy of freedom.
The book Blind Spot, a timely, lively volume, explores a variety of issues where religion and journalism intersect—from Islam, to human rights, to Mel Gibson. Taken together, these essays make an important case: The more sophisticated our knowledge of religion, the more sophisticated our knowledge of the world. G. K. Chesterton once called secularism “a taboo of tact or convention, whereby we are free to say that a man does this or that because of his nationality, or his profession, or his place of residence, or his hobby, but not because of his creed about the very cosmos in which he lives.”
Good journalism should be concerned with all of life, including our nationality, our professions, the places we live, and the interests that engage us. But journalism is radically incomplete without also covering the creeds we hold about the cosmos in which we live.
Michael Gerson is an opinion columnist at The Washington Post and previously served as a speechwriter to president George W. Bush. This essay appears as the foreword to the book Blind Spot: When journalists don't get religion.