Monday, May 15, 2006

Still Waiting On Channel 2 to Get Serious about Reporting on Religion

I think if the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.

- - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Pt. II., Bk. V: Pro and Contra, Ch. 4: Rebellion

In a story called, "Is There A Place Called Hell," Channel 2's Faith and Ethics reporter, Jamie Tucker, once again presented what seemed to me to be an evangelically biased and unjournalistic view of religion. I'll grant this to Tucker: at least he did supplement the story with interview material from one Jewish leader and one Muslim leader. However, he also employed them in the fashion of some conservative evangelical sermons I have heard. They tend to go something like this:
Atheists don't believe in hell. Religions outside of Christianity don't believe that hell lasts forever. Christians believe that there is an everlasting hell and that the only people who are saved from it are those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ [insert very selective and finessed scripture references]. There is a clear choice here. Which one are you willing to stake your life on?
Tucker's report as you can see for yourself ended as a variation on this logic, with the invitation to salvation and requisite hymn-singing merely implied rather than supplied at the end.

The problem is that there are as many different beliefs about hell or the lack of hell among Christians as there are among people of other faiths and no faiths. A number of Catholics believe in purgatory. Are they not Christian? C.S. Lewis, an Anglican and evangelical favorite, believed that hell is a place we keep ourselves confined to. Was he not Christian? Some Christians reject the idea of hell and can point to the fact that hell is mentioned very little in scripture or point out that there are parables that show that God never gives up on people. Are they not Christian? Once again, Tucker's presentation of religion is inherently flawed because it is offered from the narrowest of perspectives. He clearly favors that narrow perspective.

A much more important story on Channel 2 for figuring out where in the hell is hell was the one that followed Tucker's piece. "Woman Celebrates Mother's Day With Sick Daughter" was poignant and gut-wrenching (warning to those who choose to view it: it might rip your heart out). You want to know if there is a place called hell? I'd say that it's in the life of any innocent child ravaged by diseases like Arthrogryposis and lung disease.
Can you understand why a little creature, who can't even understand what's done to her, should ... weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God to protect her? .... Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? Why, the whole world of knowledge is not worth that child's prayer to dear, kind God'! I say nothing of the sufferings of grown-up people, they have eaten the apple, damn them, and the devil take them all! But these little ones!

- - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Pt. II., Bk. V: Pro and Contra, Ch. 4: Rebellion

I'd say that Jamie Tucker needs to look at the suffering in the second story and consider this possibility, no less Christian: if there is a hell then it is here on earth with the suffering of these little ones and we are all in it with them, whether we choose to be or not.


  1. Mike,
    you seem to have a real problem with me. Don't know what you heard (or what you wanted to hear) in the piece, but I didn't imply that any of the interviews in the story were "the one true religion".
    you post:

    "Tucker's report as you can see for yourself ended as a variation on this logic, with the invitation to salvation and requisite hymn-singing merely implied rather than supplied at the end."

    You didn't hear or see an "invitation" in my story. At the end of the piece I tried to boil it down to the responses we heard. I included atheists, muslims, jews and christians. What part of what I said do you not feel is true?
    It is true there are many more views and opinions and beliefs about heaven and hell...but for crying out loud I had 3 minutes! I could find different beliefs about heaven and hell sitting on the same pew of the same church!

    The piece also mentioned that many Christians don't believe in hell or at least an eternity in hell.

    Is it me, or do you not want to see religion reporting on television? Try to watch these stories with an open mind.

  2. It's not so much you as your reporting. I've written on your stories several times here, and I have yet to see anything beyond what seems to be a conservative evangelical bias (a la CBN news stories), which is not the same thing as "religion reporting on television," which I do in fact enjoy when it is accurate and balanced. I was watching this story in the context of others I've watched in the past, which seemed unapologetically evangelical, so I could not help but inductively read the invitation and hymn-singing at the end of a formula I've heard over and over again (I grew up evangelical, after all).

    It's unfortunate that you do not consider my attention to your stories a compliment even if the attention is more critical than you'd like. For what it's worth, I thought that your recent story on the death penalty was one of your more fair and balanced ones, eventhough I disagree with your personal views of the death penalty and civil liberties as expressed on your blog.