Cultural propaganda

I was giving them the old “heh-heh.” I said, “I started in Catholic journalism just before the invention of electricity … heh-heh.” Nothing. Not a sound. If I looked closely I could probably have spotted a tumbleweed blowing across the back of the classroom. 

I had been asked to address a class of undergraduate journalism students. My task was to explain to them “religion as news.” My position is simple: Even if you are personally a pagan, you cannot understand the culture in which you live unless you grasp the faith that stirs the people. Fully 9 in 10 Americans believe in God, and 70 percent believe so firmly and unquestioningly. Belief in God is what motivates our lives, informs our judgments and undergirds our moral values. 

Journalism defines itself as a secular profession with secular responsibilities and principles. The journalist sees religious faith as “the other,” something that stands outside the conventional wisdom. The kids seemed to prove my point by looking at me with a mix of expressions ranging from abject boredom to “what planet is this guy from, exactly?” In a world where sex, sports and celebrity have become the gristmill, religion seems old and irrelevant. 

I tried to explain that there was not a story they would encounter that would not have a faith dimension to provide an alternative voice. “Don’t fall into the trap of the mindset that cannot see beyond the little baubles of contemporary secular prejudice,” I said. “You are planning on being journalists, not propagandists for the secular culture … heh-heh.” 

There was a story in The New York Times last month about the new “gay” shows on Broadway. Noting that there are at least seven new shows opening with gay characters in gay love stories and musicals, the writer explained how this was markedly different from the AIDS-based, politically activist theater of the 1980s and 1990s. 

“The politics of these shows … are subtler: They place the everyday concerns of Americans in a gay context, thereby pressing the case that gay love and gay marriage, gay parenthood and gay adoption are not so different from their straight variations,” The New York Times reporter said. As one gay writer explained, such material is “even more subversive.” 

But nowhere in this report was there any reference to the fact that these plays are not only likely dull theater, they are also simply propaganda for gay marriage. And nowhere in the report was there any attempt to find a single alternative voice to wonder about that propaganda and seven-play overkill. We live in a culture that would never allow a dissenting voice to gay marriage, and the rest of the chattering classes — and journalism — is in on the propaganda campaign. 

In the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic Charities had to close its 80-year-old foster care and adoption program in the District of Columbia. If they had tried to keep the programs, they would have been forced to license same-sex couples as foster and adoptive parents. The new law that allows same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia — with alleged safeguards to protect the religious freedom rights of churches — forces a lot on the churches. Catholic Charities worked around the law’s requirement of paying benefits to same-sex couples by ending health plan coverage for employee spouses. That or go out of business altogether. Freedom of religion, secular style. 

A cultural propaganda machine on Broadway aimed at the sacredness of marriage; and a D.C. law aimed at kicking the churches out of social service if they don’t worship at the feet of gay conventional wisdom. You think the kids would be interested in that kind of story … heh-heh. 

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.