On reading Katherine Kersten’s column on Sunday, the first question that we must ask her is —
Are you crazy?
No, grasshopper, that’s not it. Here’s the question:
If journalism is so anti-religion, why does a newspaper print you?
Katie’s offering yesterday holds that journalists, shown interacting with Christians here, engaged in a ruthless century-long campaign to deprive religion of its role as the primary source of truth:
As journalists sought to wrest cultural influence from religion, they often appropriated religiously inspired language of truth-seeking and self-sacrifice to describe their efforts. Some extolled journalist-martyrs who had bravely stood against injustice, while others lauded journalism's "priestly mission."
Sort of like George Bush’s invocation of “crusade” in describing the fight against the Islamofascists, right, Katie?
Katie does have a point, though; the church has done such a great job of pointing out eternal truth. It almost had to kill that heretic Galileo before he would stop babbling about the earth not being in the center of the universe, but he did! And let’s not forget the yeomen’s work done by all those Dominicans in the Inquisition on behalf of the truth.
Kersten’s column seems to be entirely cribbed from the addled visions of Richard Flory, who Kersten describes as a “historian.” But in the only real reference that I can find (he does write a blog) to Flory is a book that he co-authored, Finding Faith: The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation. He is described as “a research associate in the Center for Religion and Civic Culture a the University of Southern California,” not a historian.
Here are a couple of other quotes cribbed from Flory:
Journalism was the ideal successor to religion, according to this view … because it alone could provide the "facts" and enlightened guidance on which public opinion should be based. In the future, journalism would become the new "educator of the masses" (in Flory's words), and journalists would assume religion's traditional task of working to improve society.
* * *
The Journalist's Creed -- written by Walter Williams, first dean of the University of Missouri's School of Journalism, and still used by the school -- captures this spirit. Each of its eight articles begins with "I believe," the first being, "I believe in the profession of journalism." The creed's obvious model? The historic confessions of the Christian church.
According to Katie, there was never a belief system before the Christian church came along. There is nothing in Katie’s quotes that say anything about the intent of journalism as a profession to attack religion.
If you rummage around long enough in the unfinished basement of Katie’s soul, you will figure out that what bugs her is not journalism per se, but its modernizing influence: its publication of Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail, its role in bringing the Vietnam war to an end, its role in bringing Richard Nixon low, its role in exposing the ghastly behavior of the Catholic Church hierarchy around the world in the continuing sexual abuse scandal, and its role in humanizing gays and lesbians and revealing the depths of their mistreatment, not to mentioning exposing the perpetrators of the same.
Katie says that if everyone would just obey the priest — and maybe pull down his pants when he is told — the world would be a better place.
The painting above hangs in a Jesuit museum somewhere in Canada; I’ve lost the link.
Update: Readers are encouraged to read the comments to this post, including one by Richard Florey, who doesn’t seem exactly tickled to be cited by Katherine Kersten.