We don’t talk about religion much in the news, unless it has something to do with a political issue. The work of religion writers in the nation’s newsrooms is mostly relegated to Sunday.
It’s an odd situation considering that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans surveyed say they believe in God.
In the aftermath of tragedies like that in Aurora early this morning, we often hear God evoked as we did today from both President Barack Obama, and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today,” the president said. “May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in the hard days to come. … I hope that as a consequence of today’s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.”
“The reason this is so deeply felt by all Americans is that, but for the grace of God, the victims could have been any one of our children, in any one of our towns,” VP Joe Biden added.
“We are praying for the families and loved ones of the victims during this time of deep shock and immense grief,” Romney said.
Given the large number of people who believe in God, and the invocation of God in the aftermath of the tragedy, we are, nonetheless, left on our own to try to answer the unanswerable and, frankly, unspeakable question: “What’s the deal, God?”
At a time like this, there’s a role for religious leaders to play, but they’re not playing it or they’re not getting the opportunity to play it.
At the Religion News Service, for example, the editors are merely compiling Twitter comments that mention Aurora, God, or prayers.
The Washington Post’s once-robust On Faith blog, is now just a collection of religion-themed stories. The Boston Globe’s Articles of Faith blog was closed more than two years ago. The last time the AP’s religion writer moved a story, was a week ago.
The Huffington Post’s religion section carries only a feature on fasting during Ramadan, and a link to the Twitter feed from religious people, none of which is saying anything in 140 characters to help the faithful work through the questions.
We look to blogs like the Velveteen Rabbi, Texas Faith, Get Religion, Mark Silk, Saints & Seekers, and Church Mag — these are considered among the nation’s best religious blogs — and they are all — all — silent on the day’s events.
According to the Catholic News Service, Denver prelates are offering counseling and offering “their ears to listen.”
Only, it seems, does the Christian Post provide any reaction — an explanation, if you will:
But, in times like this we have to hate someone, and the best person to hate is the worst…Satan himself. I hate him for the deception he unleashes in the hearts of so many. I hate him for the destruction he has been directly or indirectly involved with since the beginning of time. I hate him for his hatred of everything God and everything good.
Let’s face it: There are people who are going to agree with that explanation, and people who are not, and that might explain why news coverage doesn’t include a religious perspective. It’s for the Sunday sermon.
The problem is in the absence of widespread religious leadership, people like Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert step forward to fill the vacuum.
“We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country … and when … you know … what really gets me as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs and then a senseless, crazy act of terror like this takes place,” he said.
On a day in which the fundamental underpinnings of faith could be challenged, the religious perspective at a time of nationwide grief has mostly been delegated to politicians.