A proselytizing paper

For quite a while now, I’ve been meaning to write about how dismayed I am by what passes for a local newspaper these days. Given my age, a variety of things irk me. But one that had been lurking in the background became fairly apparent last week. What I noticed and believe would be borne out by by past reporting is how the local daily tends to proselytize Christianity.

I admit I disdain religion. Yet even though I don’t buy what it’s selling, if someone finds it to their liking, so be it. I’m fine with that as long as you’re not preaching to me. Yet our society seems to be incessantly insisting not only on preaching but to impose certain Christian views and beliefs on everyone. What I noticed tends to be in the preaching category.

The first one that got me was a story about a young woman whose entire family was killed in a car accident earlier this year. Given that she attended a Christian high school, most readers probably weren’t surprised when she said she had “the hope of seeing each other in heaven.” That’s all well and good but what got me is that the reporter asked her to “explain” why she believes that. Her answer:

I base that hope on Jesus, because he came to this world and died on the cross for our sins. He didn’t have to do that. But he did, so we have that hope.

Why ask her to explain why she believes that, let alone make it part of the story? The article already twice told readers she had that view and made it clear why she would. More important, what does quoting someone saying Jesus “died on the cross for our sins” have to do with the story itself? It comes off as little more than promoting the Christian faith.

I might have ignored that but the very next day there was an article (by a different reporter) about the discovery of a car missing for 42 years in which two high school girls were last seen. The last handful of paragraphs mentioned the recent death of the father of one of the girls and that one of the topics at his funeral was his was a “very strong” Christian family. Okay, I understand. But why does the report end the article with the following quote from a family friend?

That’s how they weathered this. Most families that have this kind of tragedy, the family can’t make it. But I think the strong Christian influence is the most significant part of this story.

So it turns out that the discovery of a car that is part of a 42-year-old mystery isn’t really that important. Instead, readers are told that “the most significant part” of the story is that one of the families had a “strong Christian influence”? In essence, the newspaper is “reporting” that unless a family is strongly Christian, it will fall apart if tragedy should strike. How does any of this advance the real story about the car being discovered, let alone give readers any insight into its significance in the context of what has long been considered a murder mystery?

Undoubtedly, some will see this post as an overreaction. But ask yourself this: Is there any legitimate basis to believe those quotes would have been solicited, let alone in the story if the families were Hindu or Muslim or even Jewish? Isn’t the newspaper espousing the position that a non-Christian or, horror of horrors, an atheist family simply would have no hope and could not survive a tragedy?

For myself, these as simply more recent and blatant examples of an underlying bias in local news stories, a bias most are happy to ignore. The newspaper is sad enough as it is these days. I don’t need religious dogma served with my morning coffee.

If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be — a Christian.

Mark Twain’s Notebook (1935)

2 comments to A proselytizing paper

  • John Iverson

    Since reading is and has been always an integral part of my life, I was drawn to your website. I enjoy blogs written by people who share my love of reading. You and I share some reading tastes and perhaps I can direct you to some authors that are favorites with me.

    We also share a profession. I am 65 now but I retired from a career with the Los Angeles Superior Court where, for the past 20 years, I was Chief Administrator for the Criminal Division of the Court.

    I always have two or three books going and try to get at least 100 pages a day read.

    I was particularly drawn to your most recent posting and would like to spend a few lines with my response. I will not go too deeply into it because I am sure that we disagree on this point; our love of reading is something with which we can agree.

    I am not sure that this article is evidence of “an underlying bias in local news stories”. The reporter asked the leading question which engendered the response. I believe that the response of the victim was appropriate to the question of the reporter.

    I would assert, though, that there IS an underlying bias AGAINST religion shown by almost every large circulation newspaper and certainly by the main stream media. I suspect that you may not agree with that, though!

    On to other things–recently we spent several weeks exploring Northwest Montana with an emphasis on Glacier National Park. As always, I stopped at every small town privately operated bookstore that we could find. At one of them (in Shelby, Montana), I saw a whole string of books on the shelf by someone named Ivan Doig. I had never heard of him–a fact that seemed hard to believe by the bookshop owner. I have read a half dozen of his works and find them uniformly wonderful I would recommend his first published book–a memoir of growing up in rural Montana entitled This House of Sky. Beyond that, his trilogy beginning with Dancing at the Rascal Fair is a beautiful piece of literature.

    I am also interested in old Westerns. One of my favorite characters is Red Clark–a series of western novels put out in the 1930’s by author Gordon Young.

    Enough for now. I have bookmarked your site and will return. All the best, John

    • Tim

      Thanks for reading. I have heard of Ivan Doig but have never read anything by him so I will have to check him out. And I don’t take offense if someone agrees to disagree.