ESPN did another story on a gay athlete coming out; not a whole lot new there since the story follows the typical line. I have no comment about the athlete himself or about those whose lives were affected by his decision to come out. What I did find interesting is a line attributed to the athlete and his continuing struggle with his homosexuality. It was said that as a Christian and a church goer he himself still struggles, straddling the line between enlightenment and ignorance. What I found telling about this is the way this was framed -- those who believe God's Word does not mean what it says are deemed the enlightened ones and those who believe that Word says what it says and means what it means are ignorant.
Now this is hardly an earth shattering revelation -- especially in a media story in which being true to self trumps everything else (recall the New Jersey Governor who had his wife at his side while he announced he was a "gay American"). I am not shocked by this but have come to expect something of this sort. But it still represents a definition of enlightenment which, if not novel, is certainly new. To be enlightened now means to disdain the boundaries of accepted morality, to ignore the clear Word of Scripture, and to place self-interest above all other interests. If this is the path of enlightenment, then I am greatly tempted to pray for some medieval darkness.
Over and over again, the religious are painted as ignorant or foolish. Now this is not always true -- the media has a certain affection for some groups. CBS did a wonderful story of the Orthodox monks on Mount Athos and did not call them ignorant once. In fact, the report was so sympathetic to the perspective of the monks that at times it seemed the reporter almost wanted to join them in this great spiritual endeavor. I find the treatment of the Amish almost similarly respectful. Whether it is the shock of those who refuse nearly all modern technology or the awe of those whose personal relationships as a community of faith are given higher place than individual freedom, the media seems to give them a pass in a way that they don't for most other religious groups.
But of course there is a big difference. The monks on Mt. Athos and the Amish are interesting but not all that threatening. The monks will not be invading our space anytime in the near future and the Amish are equally content to live on the fringes of culture. Where Christians engage the culture and where they speak with any voice other than acceptance of the culture, those Christians are threatening and it seems the media must take them down or paint them as extreme. Funny, though, Islam gets some respect in the media and the only thing I can think is that the media respects Islam because Christian objects to Islam. (The enemy of my enemy is my friend...)
I take it as a hopeful sign that the media is still insistent upon getting in a dig against Christianity. It means that they are still threatened by Christianity. It means that there is enough Christianity around us that the media feels it must take an antagonistic bent against Christian faith and Christian churches (except, of course, those "enlightened ones" who follow the cultural lead and surrender their values and morals to the prevailing wind of change). It is as if the only way the media will NOT paint Christianity as extreme, ignorant, narrow, judgmental, or foolish is if the media deems the faith and the churches no longer a threat to the liberal values and interest that dominate the media.
Arnold the Govinator admitted to fathering a child by another woman some ten years ago. Everyone is up in arms. Not necessarily because it was a terrible thing -- more because we did not know about it sooner. After all, Clinton got a pass on his oval office sex romps and John Edwards was treated forgivingly (at least until the cancer made his wife's cause a bit more sympathetic). It seems that as long as people agree with the media, their indiscretions are treated in an enlightened way. If they are "conservative" or "Republican", their moral failures are a much bigger issue (less because of religion than the fact that we like to expose the ignorant and narrow minded for being hypocrites). Personally, I find ignorance and enlightenment have little to do with our sinful human nature and how all people sin because all are sinners. I take no pleasure in the public failings of any but I do watch at what these folks do in response to their fall -- a little repentance is the only remedy for both religion and public redemption.
The media may have chosen -- enlightenment for those who disagree with the Scriptures and Creeds and ignorance for those who believe in them -- but I am happy to report that the subject whose coming out began this post is still straddling the line. The fact that he cannot feel fully comfortable among the enlightened without some guilt and fear is testament enough to the work of God in conscience. That gives me hope for even the most public sinners just as for the anonymous ones. And it is this pang of conscience which seems to explain why the media wants so desperately to paint the great divide in terms of enlightenment and ignorance instead of faith and unbelief. I can only hope that the media reporting such stories feels the burden of conscience as much as the people about whom they report...