4.24.2006

Listen to me!

NBC is being charged with misrepresenting American Christianity. The chair of the National Council of Churches' communication commission, Rev. Robert Chase, calls attention to the following:

For at least the second year in a row...NBC's invited panel of religious leaders [to the annual Faith in America review on Meet the Press, which aired on Easter Sunday, 16 April 2006] included no representative from the National Council of Churches or any of its 35 member communions - such as the UCC, the Episcopal Church (Anglican), the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Reformed Church in America or the Orthodox Archdiocese of America, among others.
In addition, the article at ekklesia notes,
The historic peace churches – the Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren in Christ – are also largely overlooked by the mainstream network media in the USA.
I am a student/employee/instructor at the largest non-denominational seminary in America whose student and faculty population is comprised of a good many members of these denominations (PCUSA students make up the largest block, in fact the largest group of PCUSA students outside of Princeton) and whose president comes from the Reformed Church in America. Gail and I are a part of the local Mennonite community and we have deep affinities for Episcopal/Anglican liturgy. In other words, NBC, and all other broadcasting corporations as far as I can tell, do not represent me very well to the general public. If I introduce myself as a Christian to someone who watches too much (or any!) television and is oblivious to the variety of churches in America, I will immediately have to work against the stereotype NBC and others help perpetuate. But, I suppose it is kind of hard to sensationalize "mainstream" or "peace-oriented" Christianity. They resist sensationalism by their very nature. And I think we all agree sensationalism sells. This is not about representing American Christianity fairly; it is about making advertising dollars.

4 comments:

B-W said...

I wonder, assuming for the moment that NBC (or any media outlet) truly wished to be representative (as opposed to doing what they needed to in order to get those advertising dollars), just how many different groups would need to be represented before there could be a general consensus that a proper effort was taken.

Christianity is nothing if not diverse. It seems as though we're doomed to have a significant group left out, no matter how hard we try....

Chris Spinks said...

Good thought Mark. However, I don't think it would take too much to make the following line up a bit more representative.

Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, Author, "Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir", Executive Director, Benetvision: Research and Resource Center for Contemporary Spirituality

Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun magazine, Author, "The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right"

Jon Meacham, Managing Editor, Newsweek Magazine, Author, "American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation"

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University, Author, "The Heart of Islam"

Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, Editor, First Things, Author, "Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, And the Splendor of Truth"

Joel Osteen, Senior Pastor, Lakewood Church, Author, "Your Best Life Now"

Two Catholics, a liberal rabbi, a religion editor, a Muslim, and Joel Osteen. Joel Osteen?!? This is the guy that best represents non-Catholic American Christianity? I'm not asking for a representative from every branch and sub-branch of American denominationlism. And for goodness sake, if the producers only had space for one Protestant on the show, at least they could get someone who more adequately represented Protestant Christianity to the viewing public. But, then again they do have commercial minutes to sell, and Joel has his latest book of fluff to push.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to fight against the stereotype....there is so much already against us with the way we are portrayed.
on "Family Feud" a few weeks ago, the category was "Things a minister might do as part of his job." Although "pray" was up there, reading the Bible and teaching were not. The number 3 answer? "Collect money." We're obviously well represented.

B-W said...

I don't know. While I wouldn't choose Osteen, myself (and your point about having folks who bring in the dollars not forgotten), that seems an unusally representative group for only having six people. It covers three of the major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Muslim), both ministers and lay people, men and women, and Catholic and Protestant within Christianity. Perhaps they might have traded out one of the Catholics for another Protestant, but given the sheer number of Catholics in the nation, having two's not such a big deal.