In recent days we have learned two sure-fire ways to get religion onto the evening news.
First, have the Pope come for a visit. The President will drive down to the airport to meet him, crowds will fill baseball stadiums and people of all faiths will call him a nice guy.
Second, discover that the long-time spiritual advisor to a major Presidential candidate has said some outrageous things in the past and is eager to continue saying them.
So, for all of you hoping that the media would give a little more attention to religion, you got your wish – from the sublime to the ridiculous. (In case some of you weren’t paying attention, the sublime part is the Pope and the ridiculous part is Rev. Wright, long-time pastor of the church attended by Barack Obama.)
No, I’m not going to do a personality comparison between the Pope and Rev. Wright.
I am going to ask why it takes such extremes to get so much attention for issues of faith. That’s because for a great many people, issues of faith are, well, important issues.
We have about 300,000,000 people in the United States (at least that we are aware of). And folks who study this stuff think a bit more than 40 percent attend church each week. While I’m not a math wiz, I’m pretty sure that works out to 120,000,000 people per week.
That lots more folks than attend professional football or baseball games in a week. In fact, it is more people than attend NASCAR races in a year.
If I were self-abusive enough to watch the news every night, I know that I would see some actual news (man bites dog sort of stuff) along with the weather and sports. A report is given on the local teams no matter how bad they are.
Living in Chicago, I know that I’ll hear about the Cubs, even if they are in last place and the only people attending the day’s game were the players’ parents and girlfriends.
But I probably won’t hear anything about religion. And I’d like to hear how the faith team is doing:
• News flash: attendance was up in area churches this past weekend. Could be the impact of the Pope’s visit or just some especially strong homilies of late.
• News flash: Catholic parents are sacrificing new cars, nice houses and clothing to send their children to parochial schools – this in spite of having to pay taxes to support their neighbors’ kids in the public schools.
• News flash: Upwards of a million people in the Chicago area attended worship services Sunday – more people than were involved in any other activity except eating and sleeping.
I know. It is just a fantasy. But in the long run, how my faith is doing will matter a lot more than how my favorite baseball team is doing (which, by the way, is the White Sox).
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