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They just don’t get religion, do they?
Look at some of the mainstream media’s coverage of the Mother Teresa book. Crisis of Faith, Time magazine announced — in an exclusive. Christopher Hitchens, who wrote the anti-Mother T book, Missionary Position, appeared on Hardball declaring her an atheist. But his position we knew. One seemingly clueless blogger for the Chicago Tribune asked: “Can saints have bad days?”
Umm . . . yes.
Time started its expose with this quote from the new book, Come Be My Light: The Private Letters of the Saint of Calcutta: “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness are so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”
She was human and felt empty now and again. She dealt with people suffering from poverty — the “poorest of the poor” — and the most debilitating and isolating of illnesses, and sometimes wondered how God could let such pain exist. Shocking? Not quite. Try: Only human.
In one of her letters to a spiritual director — in other words, in a letter that by nature discussed her deepest spiritual challenges — she wrote: “Now Father — since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss — this untold darkness — this loneliness this continual longing for God — which gives me that pain deep down in my heart — Darkness is such that I really do not see — neither with my mind nor with my reason — the place of God in my soul is blank . . .”
The chattering class reacts with shock, as if they were encountering a senator in a public bathroom tapping his foot into the next stall.
Apparently the chatterers have never encountered the phrase “Doubting Thomas,” Saint Augustine, or, well, actual believers. Apparently they never encountered the words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, who at the hour of his death cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Christians believe faith to be a great gift — one that, among other things, helps to explain the unexplainable. So that there can be challenges and “dark nights” is not all that blockbuster of news. Try a millennia-old.
But the media may soon face its own dark night. In a recent debate, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, son of a Greek Orthodox priest, asked the Democratic presidential candidates about their spiritual lives. There was some cliché, and some sincerity. But there was also the suggestion of a deep prayer life of a struggling soul.
That Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton could possibly pray — and sometimes in the same prayer group with Republican Senate colleagues (like Republican Sam Brownback) — has the liberal magazine Mother Jones freaked out. An article in their September issue worries that she might be “led by the spirit.”
The bad news for Mother Jones is that she may, in fact, have the Good News. Paul Kengor, author of the new book God and Hillary Clinton: A Spiritual Life, suggests that’s exactly what Hillary Clinton is: a believer. And that possibility will present major challenges to media folk.
Kengor tells me: “Hillary is going to put the dominant media in a real bind. After telling us repeatedly that the faith of a politician should be kept private, or doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t be part of the public square, the secular press will now need to backtrack as it discovers that the Democratic frontrunners are religious folks desperately in need of the 2000 and 2004 values voters.”
So after the initial freak-out, Kengor predicts the media will adapt: “As Hillary gets the nomination, secular liberals will suddenly get religion.”
But don’t expect a confession about the political double standard or a plea for forgiveness. As when there was a sudden newfound respect for the Catholic bishops in the 1980s, for denouncing Ronald Reagan’s nuclear policies, the media “will once again be supportive of faith in the public square, but only selectively,” Kengor says.
If they got religion things might be different. Until then, the prayer life in newsrooms like that of the Seattle Times, that cheered at the news of Karl Rove’s White House retirement, is for President Hillary.
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