Back in 2004 a couple of Christian journalists were frustrated at how, in the words of William Schneider: “The press…doesn’t get religion.” So Terry Mattingly and Douglas LeBlanc started Get Religion, a daily news blog that would explore how the mainstream media was covering (and most often missing) the religious dimension behind the stories we were all reading. They called this missing element the “religious ghost” – it’s there in so many stories, but unseen by the media covering them.
So, for example, a July 13 story on The Telegraph’s website reported on how:
“a school in Leeds is attempting to tackle forced marriages by giving their pupils spoons to hide in their underwear to trigger airport metal detectors.”
According to a spokesperson for the academy:
“80% of UK forced marriages happened abroad during the summer holidays, making it a peak time for parents to take their daughters abroad to be married.”
The hope was, that if a girl was being taken against her will to be married abroad then, after this spoon set off the metal detector, it could create an opportunity for the girl “to raise the alarm with security staff privately.”
A reporter is supposed to get to the 5Ws of a story, but here we see a couple of glaring omissions. Who are these parents forcing their daughters to marry abroad? And why are they doing it? This is described as “‘honor’-based abuse and forced marriage” and we’re told that these girls are “often conditioned from a very young age to consider arranged marriage to be normal.” But, again, who is doing the conditioning, and whose idea of “honor” is this”? Might there be an identifiable cultural or religious group linked to this, or has Britain always had this problem?
There is a religious dimension to the story that’s left unexplored. But why? Can’t the reporter see it? Or is she deliberately looking away? Whatever the case, there is a huge “religious hole.”
There probably isn’t anyone left who thinks the media is objective and unbiased. But do our children understand that this bias comes out, not just in what the press says and writes, but also in what they leave unsaid, and unwritten. When the media has no interest in the religious angle, they are treating God – who He is, and who He isn’t, what He thinks, and what He wants us to do – as unimportant. Daily doses of such perspective can have an impact, especially if we are caught unawares (1 Cor. 15:33). So let’s teach ourselves, and our children, to spot the “religious ghosts” that haunt so many front pages stories.