:: Monday, July 26, 2004 ::

If religion writers rode the campaign bus
An interesting perspective -- from Jay Rosen, again -- on how campaign coverage would be different if reporters on the God beat covered presidential politics. Rosen links to this piece by Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News, who offers this insight about the state of religion reporting in America today:
This forum asked: "Do you think that religion writers for our mainstream media have any idea how to go about finding the answers?" I don't think the questions even occur to them. They're too busy running off to capture the latest exotic flavor of America's polymorphous religiosity, or bringing a political approach to the coverage of religious issues -- I'm thinking of the Anglican church's struggle over the place of homosexuality in the church's life -- that deserve a far more searching analysis than you'll find in the daily papers.

Dreher then goes on to explain what a "good" religion reporter would do. And again, as another blogger pointed out on another campaign topic, it all boils down to the narrative of life:
A good religion writer will understand that there are very few pure materialists in the world of men, and he will try to interpret and explain the motivations of voters by asking himself what their metaphysical dream entails. A religion reporter on the campaign trail could learn more about a Bush or Kerry voter by asking general questions designed to get him to outline his metaphysical dream. Find out what's fundamentally important to him, how he thinks the world works -- then work your way into finding out why this or that candidate appeals to his sense of reality.

This requires time, patience, and a lot of skill. I remember when I was an undergraduate, and quite a Reagan-hater. I could not grasp why my working-class father and all his friends voted for Reagan. I wanted to argue policy and politics with my dad, and I'd get so frustrated by polls showing that on specific policies, voters preferred the Democratic position -- yet still went for Reagan. I chose to explain this to myself (and to my readers when I began writing for the college paper) by saying that Reagan was exceptionally good at fooling people.

Of course, the truth is that Reagan, whatever his policies, shared their metaphysical dream. They trusted him to accurately reflect and interpret reality. They connected with him on an emotional level that was beyond my ability to understand, because I was more interested in arguing, and in framing the issue in ways that made sense to a liberal Democrat college student, instead of being patient and humble enough to ask: Why would churchgoing working-class white people, all registered Democrats living in a small Louisiana town, think a California Republican is the greatest president they've ever known?

:: Andrew 09:44 + ::

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