Alicia Mundy, a columnist for Editor & Publisher, writes that “it’s time the press developed a new paradigm for covering the possible fallout of religious beliefs.” The media “uses kid gloves on mainstream religion,” she argues.
Mundy is upset that the Washington Post didn’t blame traditional Catholic moral teaching for the accidental death of a 21-month-old girl from a large Catholic family in Virginia. The Post titled one of its stories about the child’s death (she was forgotten in a van, due to a family miscommunication), “Death Mars a Flattering Family Portrait.” Miffed at that puffy title, Mundy probably would have preferred something like, “Catholics Shouldn’t Have Large Families.”
She writes: “I believe that if the religion involved here weren’t one of the mainstream Judeo-Christian sects, editors and reporters might have raised some serious questions: Did the family priest not notice any problems — or urge the couple to reconcile their religious views on birth control with their ability to handle so many children? Stories indicated the older children were being used as a built-in baby-sitting service while the parents continued to produce more kids than they could handle.”
Alicia Mundy is no doubt a proponent of “reproductive freedoms” — just so long as they don’t result in too much reproduction. Feminism so loves children it doesn’t want many of them born. Mundy’s heart bleeds for a child she didn’t want the child’s parents to “produce.” Touching, isn’t it?
Mundy is worried about the “fallout” of religious beliefs. What about the “fallout” of the lack of religious beliefs? In the interest of fairness, perhaps she can now urge on the Post a “new paradigm” for covering the fallout of atheism. The next time, say, a child of a Hollywood star blows his brains out, maybe she can demand that the Post ask the grieving actor, “Did your therapist not notice that your atheistic degeneracy would create problems for your child — or urge you to reconcile your casual view of marriage with childrearing responsibilities?”
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times, to its credit, reported on a danger of mainstream religion Mundy wouldn’t recognize: namely, it is no longer religious. “Mention of hell from pulpits is at an all-time low,” reports the Times. “The downplaying of damnation shows the influence of secularism on Christian theology.”
Christianity without Christ is the flavor of the day. Though Christ spoke of hell frequently — describing it as the “outer darkness” and “everlasting fire” — modern Christians know better. “It isn’t sexy enough anymore,” said one Orange County evangelical pastor to the Times. “It’s just too negative,” says Bruce Shelley, a church history professor at the Denver Theological Seminary. “Churches are under enormous pressure to be consumer-oriented. Churches today feel the need to be appealing rather than demanding.”
Martin Marty at the University of Chicago Divinity School says, “Once pop evangelism went into market analysis, hell was just dropped.” Marty added to the Times: “When churches go door to door and conduct a market analysis…they hear, ‘I want better parking spaces. I want guitars at services. I want to have my car greased while I’m in church.’”
Post-Vatican II Catholicism, needless to say, isn’t too worried about hell either. As Marty notes, “Who goes to confession anymore? Time was, a (Catholic) church had 16 booths and people snaked around the block. Today, a church might have one left.”
Hell polls surprisingly well — 71% of American adults believe in it, reports the Times — but they “just don’t want to hear about it.” The Times views this attitude as a philosophical outgrowth of the “European Enlightenment.”
And what is the fallout, Mundy might say, of this secularized Christianity? The answer is obvious in the morning headlines: the less Christians talk about hell, the more hellish their behavior becomes.
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