Christianity is barely addressed in the information and entertainment media these days. When acknowledged at all, it is most often treated as an object of scorn and derision. Christian faith is simply not part of life for the vast majority of those fictional characters portrayed on TV and in films. When Christian characters occasionally get written into screenplay plots, they are almost always pseudo-Christian humanists, naive buffoons, or malevolent bigots.
Likewise in the news and information media. Devout, doctrinally orthodox Christians are treated with suspicion and disdain, and regarded as a marginal minority on the outermost fringes of “real” culture. One might be forgiven for assuming that this indifference and/or animosity towards Christianity reflects the attitudes of mainstream society.
However, scientific evidence indicates otherwise. The major (6,000 polled) survey of religion in Canada conducted for Maclean’s magazine by Angus Reid in 1993 discovered that 74% of Canadians are “Christian” in their own understanding, and fully 66% expressed reasonably orthodox Christian beliefs and values. A more recent and modest Reid poll at Queen’s, York, and the University of Toronto found that 42% of arts and humanities students said Christianity is important to them day by day, and 52% affirmed that Jesus’ death and resurrection provide forgiveness for their sins.
The late George Rawlyk, a Rhodes Scholar and former chair of the Department of History at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, collaborated with the Angus Reid pollsters on both surveys. Rawlyk observed that the Maclean’s editors were flabbergasted by the strong affirmation of orthodox Christian belief in Canada. “You’ve failed us,” one of the editors told Rawlyk, “you people in the universities—how could you let so many people get through universities without losing their faith?”
“They were amazed by what they saw,” said Rawlyk in a recent Christian Week interview. “They wanted to see no belief. It ran counter to their perception of realty. I think it was a shock to them.”
It was not always so. Rawlyk note that 70 years ago most newspaper owners and editors were ardent Christians, who very much wanted to reflect and reinforce Christian values in society. Even as recently as the early ‘50s, William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper empire did much to promote the career of a young Christian evangelist named Billy Graham.
But by then, the media, academic and entertainment elites had largely divorced themselves from Christian values, and begun to labour under the arrogant presumption that mainstream society would follow blindly in their wake. So it has to a considerable degree, but Christian belief proved to be a lot more durable that anyone (except serious Christians) expected—even after a half-century of being alternately ignored and attacked by cultural leaders, trendmakers, and media chroniclers.
Leftist political notions, reductionist science, and liberal humanist moral revisionism displaced Christian faith in the minds and hearts of self-perceived sophisticates, and the socio-cultural milieu such people inhabit did indeed quickly become ignorant of Christianity on all but the most perfunctory and superficial level. This self-styled elite regrettably included many clergy and leaders of mainline Protestant churches and some of the Roman Catholic Church as well.
Christian faith became an embarrassment in these circles, even among those nominally responsible for advocating it.
Leftist elitists like to think they’re “spiritual” –minded, so long as this remains vaguely defined and involves no moral demands or other inconvenient restrictions on personal autonomy. For them, more substantial forms of religion constitute an intolerable distraction from social responsibility, especially if the tenets of faith contradict humanist political correctness in any way.
Real religious faith is regarded at best as quaintly backward among the mavens of modern culture and academe. Cultural anthropologist Theodore Roszak recalls that during his university years: “Of the needs of the spirit one simply did not speak; the very word was without a negotiable meaning in educated company. This, I rapidly learned, was the most intellectually intolerable aspect of personality and accordingly the most repressed. One might discourse in luscious detail about one’s sex life in fact and fantasy, but how gauche, how offensive to introduce anything even vaguely religious into serious conversation…”
Of course these supercilious atheists remain utterly out of touch with the real world as experienced by real people, where the poor, dumb, unwashed massed somehow manage to go on believing in the religion of Jesus Christ, despite the fact that even many of their supposed spiritual leaders stopped doing so long ago.
That Christian faith survives in the hearts and minds of so many after more than a half-century of neglect, derision, and attack from self-styled cultural elite, seems truly miraculous. Unless, of course, Jesus Christ really is “the way, the truth, and the life,” as he affirmed of Himself. Perhaps all those folks who believe Christ died are influenced by something more profound than hopeful delusion —Marx’s “opiate of the masses.”
Perhaps those Maclean’s editors and their fellow-travelers have indeed missed out on the greatest story in human history.