Idol Chatter

While combing this morning’s shows for traffic and weather before heading to work, I stumbled onto Matt Lauer on “Today” doing reports on faith, heaven, and religion live from the Holy City of Jerusalem. I was struck by how interesting it was to see such an important topic addressed on the show (which I loved) and also how it was treated as just another field report (which I didn’t love).

While Lauer was bringing attention to this historic city, which stands at the intersection of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the network kept switching back to New York for the weather or the constant teasers for an upcoming report about how to get a better travel deal at hotels. Lauer’s report was complete with pre-recorded introductions and celebrations of just about everything from the history to the bloodshed to the current challenges to the views about heaven that exist in all three faiths. The weather and hotel teases were exactly what bores us every day.

It was almost like, “Hey, let’s look at this deep topic of faith, history, and heaven, but let’s not forget that many of you aren’t interested in this, so we’ll squeeze in the weather and how to get a great travel deal to keep you interested.”

It may have just been me, but I think NBC underestimated its audience, and the frequent flipping from Jerusalem to New York felt like it minimized a great idea. After all, here was Matt Lauer at the Wailing Wall with clips from the Dead Sea, Jordan River, and Garden Tomb. There was even some drama, as some local official tried to oust the crew (and Lauer!) from the area while they were shooting live.

America may not be a unified nation politically or religiously, but I think we share more of a common desire for authentic spirituality than cultural leaders give us credit for. This morning’s show was an example. We’re interested in more than just a magazine cover during the holidays and extra pieces when a religious leader is controversial, fallen, or hugely succesful. We’re interested in more than just an occasional piece in the local paper or on the TV news. And, we’re interested in authentic information and exposure, as Lauer’s trip could have been.

Perhaps they should consult with Beliefnet next time. In the meantime, though, I did get a tip for my next trip, so I’m headed online to check it out…

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