Religion Letter of the Day
posted by June 14 at 10:27 AMon
A MONTH OF DISAPPOINTMENT
EDITOR: I am most likely late in writing this, as I have recently been traveling, but I was very upset by “A Month of Sundays.” Not because I am conservative, or religious (hear me out), but because the very people who felt so like outsiders going into the services wrote of their subjects as if all church-goers were from Mars.
I, like many of the journalists, am a secular humanist (though I hesitate to define myself in any way). My father was raised Catholic and my mother Methodist and sometimes when they were feeling guilty they would drag my brother and me to church (Episcopalian or Unitarian or whatever) for Christmas or Easter, but it was never really serious. Both my parents are now wonderfully accepting secular humanists.
“A Month of Sundays” seems incongruous to your publication mostly because the majority of the article is intolerant and biased. The authors report feelings of surprise and gratitude at the sense of community they see in the congregations, yet they adopt a clearly mocking tone about the people who inspire such feelings. Some of the authors clearly admire the officiants, yet they leave the services early to enjoy beautiful weather rather than fulfill their journalistic duties. Seattle is not a church-going city, as observed by Dan Savage in the introduction to the article, and so it seems obvious that many congregants would be elderly, ascribing to values from waning generations. Yet the authors hardly bother to explore the motives of the people drawn to service, whether it be because of tradition or because some people need a sense of community. (Or because some people actually believe in God. Should we absolutely write them off because of that?)
The dark side of all organized religions is plain to see all over the world. Some people of all creeds, religions, orientations, etc, etc. are not doing good, are not tolerant, are not kind, but some are. And it is not the duty of the journalist to find the good people, but it is the duty of the journalist to look at each and every one as if he or she could be any which way, and report in a manner that lets the reader decide. “A Month of Sundays” approaches the task of appraising Sunday worshippers as if they are the worst Seattle has to offer, only rarely allowing the church- (or mosque, or synagogue) goers to prove themselves otherwise. Haven’t we all had grandparents or teacher or elders whom we respect, who on Sundays might possibly have been a friendly old person in church?
In our own progressive, secular personal lives, we all laugh at the televangelists, and we despair about the people who blow up other people in the name of religion. In attempting to write a piece of journalism, however, please do not let your writers forget to be journalists. Don’t let the personal lives of the writers get the better of the story.
I have not been to church in years. I am lucky because I have a supportive, active community of my own. But I beg of you, who teach and preach tolerance in this terribly intolerant country, to reach outside of yourselves and give everyone a chance. Even the people who make it to church in Seattle. Judge not, lest you be judged. I mean that in a secular, fair, journalistic sense.