This summer, a humanist interviewed on CBC radio declared that his ideal world would not be based on religion, but on logic and science.
In early October, Dr. Stanley Hauerwas (whom Time magazine named America’s best theologian) stated, “Science tries to do more than it is qualified to do.” “Science is only hypothetical,” Rev. Dr. Ian Ker of Oxford University pointed out.
Hauerwas, of Duke University, and Ker, a renowned Newman scholar, were keynote speakers at a conference on Faith, Freedom and the Academy, held at UPEI in Charlottetown.
Several of the 60 presenters, including Michael Higgins, president of St. Jerome’s College, noted that “in this post modern era,” there is a widespread resurgence of interest in things religious, and more openness to the spiritual, especially on campus.
Susan Sorensen of the University of Winnipeg reported that in her first-year English classes, students seemed to be both familiar with religious symbolism and open to religious themes and topics.
John Weir, president emeritus of Wilfred Laurier University, said that Gallup polls show enrollment in America’s religious-based schools is growing faster than in other schools, and that many more young Americans (often brought up without religion) are embracing orthodoxy.
“Watch the students,” he said. “Watch their trends. There is much reason for hope.”
Two weeks later, Robert Case was interviewed on CBC Radio’s program The Current. Founder of the newly re-focused World Journalism Institute in Ashville, N.C., he pointed out that although there are six to 10 million evangelical Christians in America, they have no discernable impact on the mainstream media.
“The culture belongs to (Christians) as much as to anyone else. We should have more influence on our world than we do,” he said. “We should be in the newsrooms, but we have not been diligent in producing good journalists who are also strong Christians, or strong Christians who are also good journalists.”
The goal of WJI, he explained, is to train Christian journalists so that they can help frame the coverage of the important issues of our time. “For example, to ensure that media coverage of moral issues like abortion is not so monolithic‚ as it is today, when media give the impression that the only widely held position on abortion is pro-choice.”
On the same program, Joyce Smith, of the Ryerson School of Journalism, said, “In Canada, religious belief is considered a purely private matter. That greatly influences the way the media cover issues that have a religious perspective.” She added, “Not enough journalists recognize the religious aspect in an issue to start with. Many feel out of their depth, even when it is their own faith, so they write about these issues very superficially.” Consequently, they frequently miss or misinterpret and misrepresent the nuances of faith or the faith issue they are trying to communicate.
Richelle Wiseman was also interviewed. She is executive director of the Centre for Faith and the Media in Calgary. She explained that her centre’s major purposes are to teach faith groups how to deal effectively with the media and to give journalists the training and resources to recognize, address and cover with more accuracy and sensitivity the stories in which religion and morals play a significant part.
Smith, who is also on Wiseman’s board of directors, told the CBC, “It’s a joy teaching young people. In my classes, I tell them upfront that I’m also interested in the religious aspects of stories, and I get a lot of religion in their writing. That gives me great hope.”
As John Weir said, “Watch the students.”
But listen! Do you hear that tiny sound, barely audible in the background? Is it the sound of hope? The winds of change? Or a humanist tip-toeing away?