06 December 2005
For all that religion journalism actually has improved lately, with major publications taking a genuine and intelligent interest in the role of religion in world affairs, there’s still a genre of religion writing that’s reliably lousy, wherein reporters approach religion stories with the sensibility of an elementary school student playing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago?” Where will Jesus pop up this time? In a locker room? Sure! In a strip club? You betcha! Two examples from the past two days cry out for recognition: the AP’s pop-y feature on sports team prayer (republished in The Washington Times), and the Telegraph’s report on the missionizing ex-strippers (complete with hearts of gold) who call themselves “JC’s Girls.” In both instances, a whole spectrum of religion stories, lawsuits, and social issues — the constitutionality of pre-game prayer in public schools; Air Force locker room banners reading “Team Jesus”; the intimidation of Muslim players who were questioned about Al Quaeda after a pre-game recitation of Koranic verses; or, conversely, newly-Christian strippers posing for internet portraits sprawled on their beds with Bible in hand — are crammed into a single paragraph of “context” for what otherwise remains a blissfully ignorant feel good story.