Peter Glover (aka Wires From the Bunker) is vexed about the standard of journalism in the British media. The latest focus for his ire is an article in The Times reporting an American researchers claim that religion causes crime, describing the article as “anti-Christian, anti-American propaganda”.
The sad state of the British mainstream media (MSM) has been the focus of a few postings here recently and is a constant cause for concern in the Blogosphere generally. But I have yet to read anything that matches the unadultered piece of anti-Christian, anti-American bilge in The Times yesterday.
According to an American ’social scientist’ belief in God in the USA and UK - which in both cases means primarily the members of the Christian church - are directly responsible for “higher rates of homicide, juvenile and adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion”.
I haven’t looked up the reasearcher’s actual claims — life’s too short, frankly — but I did read the Times piece. Peter’s criticism of The Times (not a paper for which I have any particular affection seeing as it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch) is that it reports the research without comment and implies that “American and British Christians primarily … are the people directly responsible for the higher rates of murders, higher mortality, teen pregnancy and abortions in both nations.” The article is anti-American because it includes the reasearcher’s claim that “The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”
I have two problems with how Peter is treating this article. First, (and this is ironic, given Peter’s concern for journalistic standards) it doesn’t actually do what he says it does. What the article actually says is
RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.
According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. (emphases mine)
That’s a good deal less strong than Peter is claiming, whatever the researcher’s intention may have been. In any case, the journalist’s job is surely to report the facts of a story. It isn’t for the journalist to tell me whether or not the researcher in question is a loony. I can make my own mind up about that.
Secondly, Peter merely dismisses the research because he believes its author has an agenda of which he disapproves. In doing so, he fails to engage with the really serious issue it raises, namely why it is that rates of violence, sexual promiscuity, suicide, abortion and the other ’social indicators’ which the researcher used do not appear to be affected by rates of reported religious devotion. I do find it disturbing that the ‘more Christian’ nations are not less violent, promiscuous and syphillic (can that be a word, I wonder?) than the more secular, and I venture to suggest that every Christian should find it so.
Whatever the agenda of those who bring these things to light, what should our response be? Given that our calling is to be ’salt and light’, how is it that the societies which have proportionately the most Christians are measurably less salty and more dark? Of course, it’s possible that the research is false, that the figures it reports are distorted or plain untrue. If that’s the case, a journalist of Peter C. Glover’s calibre can no doubt quickly produce the refutation. And I’ll be glad to join him in making that refutation known because, God knows, I want this researcher to be wrong.
But supposing the data reported is an accurate reflection of reality. What then? Do we scream that The Times shouldn’t be reporting this stuff, like children who don’t want to hear a bad school report.
Or do we take the time to ask ourselves and God how it could be that we’ve failed so badly.