Are the Democrats Anti-Religion?
How the media's reporting on the Religious Right keeps it from seeing the story of the Secular Left
As a practicing Christian, a political conservative and a professional journalist, I've long been amazed at how ignorant and uncurious my mostly intelligent and urbane colleagues are about conservatives, especially religious conservatives. Many have looked at me--their friend, despite my Catholicism and Republican Party registration--with the same slack-jawed incomprehension as elderly Southerners when they step off the tour bus in London and hear a black man speaking with a crisp British accent (I've seen this, and it's a hoot).
People like me--religious conservatives who are reasonably intelligent and sociable--aren't supposed to exist. You may recall the furor a decade ago when a Washington Post story described Christian conservatives as "largely poor, uneducated and easy to command." It's bad enough a reporter for one of the country's top newspapers made an error like that. It's staggering that it got through several layers of copy editing. For all the caterwauling about "diversity" in the media, you'd be hard-pressed to find the same uniformity of thinking in any Catholic church on Sunday as you'll find any day of the week in most American newsrooms.
True story: I once proposed a column on some now-forgotten religious theme to the then city editor of the New York Post. He looked at me like I'd lost my mind. "This is not a religious city," he said, with a straight face. As it happened, the man lived in my neighborhood. On his morning walk to the subway, he had to pass two Catholic churches, an Episcopal church, a synagogue, a mosque, an Assemblies of God Hispanic parish, and an Iglesia Bautista Hispana. He didn't see these places because he doesn't know anyone who attends them.
In the main, the men and women who bring America its news don't hate religion. In most cases, they just believe it's unimportant at best, menacing at worst. Because they don't know any religious people, they think of American religion in categories that have long been outdated.
My fellow reporters think I'm putting them on when I tell them I've been a practicing Catholic for 10 years and have only heard one sermon about abortion and none about contraception. Outside the Jewish community, Israel has no stronger supporters than among American evangelicals. That's been true for at least a generation, but the news has yet to reach American newsrooms, where there's a general assumption that these "fundamentalists" are anti-Semitic. Because journalists tend not to know religiously observant people, they see religious activity the only way they know--in terms of secular politics.