Friday, January 07, 2005
When Larry King interviewed George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton the other night, CNN presented ample split-screen evidence that the Lord transcends political parties and backgrounds. The former presidents – blue-blooded Yankee and hardscrabble Arkansan – spoke eloquently about faith. By now, perhaps no subject has achieved more agreement in the USA's news media. Faith in God is a televised no-brainer.
"My faith is never shaken by a personal tragedy," said ex-President Bush, "or even a tragedy of this enormity." Clinton said: "It reminds us that we're not in control, that our faith is constantly tested by circumstances, but it should be deepened when we see the courageous response people are having, and the determination to endure." Both men praised the incumbent in the White House, presumptively a God-loving guy.
In the media frame, it doesn't seem to matter that almost all the notable Americans invited on the networks to talk about their faith in God are supportive of bankrolling the carnage in Iraq. This is nothing new. For a long time, high-profile talk about belief in God has been a useful fog for agendas that enrich weapons manufacturers while helping the wealthy get wealthier and further impoverishing the already poor.
In autumn 1994, just weeks before the mid-term election when the GOP won the upper hand on Capitol Hill, the executive director of the conservative fundamentalist Christian Coalition spoke at the National Press Club. "Faith in God isn't what's wrong with America," Ralph Reed declared, "it's what is right with America." A decade later, Reed is one of the nation's top Republican operatives, and such rhetoric is routine.
No doubt many Americans like the profuse media talk about faith in God. If that's the case, they should say so – and, judging from the steady media cacophony, a large number of them do. But what about the Americans who find that talk to be cloying, simplistic and manipulative? Where's the media space for them?
One of the great media taboos is to sincerely question "faith in God" or to suggest that the superficial renditions of faith popularized in mass media are apt to paralyze more than empower.