What the klieg lights give, the klieg lights take away. Such is the double-edged sword of media coverage.
My Catholic friends would do well to remember it in the rush of media coverage over choosing a new pope. The 24/7 coverage of papal smoke signals all seems like a twisted dream sequence of American Idol — just in Rome — and without the horiffic singing. Call it The Search for the Next Italian Idol. (No offense intended to my Catholic friends, but it might be cool if one of the Cardinals did get a record deal, or at least a fashion design sponsorship out of this conclave.)
My friend Dr. Brian Mattson wryly points out the anachronistic irony of the coverage:
I find it amazing that in the Twitter age, a billion people are waiting for a smoke signal.
— Brian Mattson (@BrianGMattson) March 12, 2013
Why the Media Circus?
As an Evangelical Christian and grateful product of the Protestant Reformation, I obviously disagree strongly with Catholicism on many fronts. Yet I count the Catholic Church as an institutional ally in cultural battles and many Catholics as good friends in my faith journey. And frankly, I’m not sure the Evangelical world gets it much better with a plethora of mega-church pastors charting the course for how evangelical Christianity gets perceived in our culture. Or Pat Robertson leading with his concerns over devilish cardigans. But I digress.
What has my attention these days is how much coverage the choosing of a new pope is receiving from a media that is decidely secular in its ideology. And so I wonder, why does the media care? Is it just ratings? Certainly the millions of Catholics aroudn the world care about the choice to some degree. But 24/7, breathless coverage? Judging from Catholic voting behavior here in the US, many rank-and-file Catholics pay little attention to what the Pope says anyways.
Coverage Equals Control
I think the coverage has more to do with an opportunity to take some control over the Catholic church. Coverage is control. If you cover a story, you can control it, tweak it, potentially bend it in your desired direction. You can raise false expectations of the hope for a more progressive pope. You can focus on outlying complaints and shine a spotlight on them, such as these stories of protests demanding women be included in the church hierarchy — as if such things were to be determined by popular vote and not scared Scripture:
Demonstrations took place across the United States and internationally to protest the male-only conclave to elect the next pope.
Members of a church in Sarasota sent up their own smoke signals Tuesday – not black or white, but pink.
They gathered at the St. Andrews UCC Church in Sarasota. The vigil was one of many held on Tuesday around the globe. Not all were so peaceful though: a melee ensued outside the Vatican Tuesday when two female activists who went topless were dragged away from St. Peter’s Square.
Nice. But you get my point. Two activists who are likely not even Catholic get some air and print time. Why?
Why not stories from the European and American heartland from devout Catholics praying fervently for God’s wisdom in choosing a new pope? I think that image would hardly fit the media agenda here. Plus, most of the secular media begins by assuming God cannot exist, or is at best irrelevant; therefore, such devout Catholics clearly live in denial of reality.
A Worldview Disconnect
Coverage of events like these simply points out the glaring misunderstanding that most of the secular media has regarding Christianity and the place of divine revelation in it. Apart from divine revelation, there is no Christianity. The Reformation happened precisely because Christians disagreed on the nature of that voice of authority. But they agreed that a divinely ordained voice did, in fact, exist. Essentially so.
But such beliefs are eliminated at the outset by the presuppositions of secular humanism. Therefore, they are only to be mocked or destroyed. Both if possible. Where, we might ask, is the tolerance for Biblical truth in the coverage?
I’m not saying that the choosing of a new pope is not important for the Catholic church and, as a cultural ally, for the Evangelical world, as well. Certainly, it will impact the health of Western culture. But I find the incessant media coverage disturbing in its insincerity.
Why do you think the media is devoting so much coverage to the choosing of the new pope?