Let me be honest with you. I am not sure how to start this post.
After all, I could simply say “click here” and send GetReligion readers to the Washington City Paper item in question and that would be that. In fact, I think I’ll do that in a minute.
But I honestly think there is a story here — a religion-news ghost beyond the obvious ones — and I’ve been searching for a way to put that into words. Here’s what I have come up with.
Several years ago, I went to the Czech Republic to speak to the broadcasters there who work in Afghanistan and in other Muslim-majority lands in that region. The key question: Why do American journalists keep insisting that there are “moderate” Muslims and “fundamentalist” Muslims in spite of the fact that Muslims in the region do not think in those terms?
Anyway, I spend several days in the company of a veteran Czech journalist known for his work in public broadcasting. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the nature of religious belief and unbelief in the post-Soviet era.
The bottom line: The Czech Republic is now one of the most secular nations in the world. However, there’s a twist in this story. As the number of people committed to traditional religious belief and practice has declined, the number of people whose worldview includes strong beliefs in superstitions — such as hexes and omens — has risen. Sharply. Today, the Czechs are among the least religious and the most superstitious people in Europe and in the world at large.
With that, let’s look at the following bizarre item from here in Beltway-land, concerning a statement by Sally Quinn of The Washington Post and it’s On Faith project:
At a New York panel Monday on spirituality earlier this week, Quinn recalled how she used her psychic powers in the world of southern magic (emphasis added):
What we really believed in and practiced was voodoo, psychic phenomenon, Scottish mysticism, palm reading, astrology, seances, and ghosts. And I have many, many stories about those, real stories. And that—those things were my true religion, aside from dances. Aunt Ruth was psychic, my aunt Maggie was psychic, and I’m psychic. We actually put hexes on people and they really worked. It was actually really scary and I finally stopped when my brother who has a PhD in religion from the University of Chicago and is a theosophist and a practicing Buddhist told me I had to cut it out because it would come back at me three times. Anything that I did later that was troublesome I kept thinking, I brought this on myself, I should never have put a hex on her.
First, a reminder that Quinn is a columnist for a major American newspaper. Second, huh?
Don’t count on Quinn for an explanation, though. At least not yet. “I’m saving it all for my book!” she writes in an email. “But be careful what you write anyway. ….”
Now, let’s try discussing this as a JOURNALISM topic.
So, thumbs up or thumbs down. Who thinks this is a topic — broadly defined, as opposed to defining it as belief in hexes among Beltway mavens who are atheists-turned-Episcopalians — worthy of coverage in the mainstream press?