Fresh eyes on religion coverage

student journalismMichigan State University's student newspaper, The State News, had a solid feature story a couple of weeks ago by Petra Canan that takes a fresh and personal look at the local Christian Science congregation. Apologies for not mentioning this sooner, but it is important not to let this one slip by. Many thanks to the reader who gave us the heads up on the story, along with this note:

[The story] deserves to be lauded for its willingness to tackle statements of belief right off the bat, as well as take the time to feature a prayer worker's perspective on spiritual healing and a historical overview of Mary Baker Eddy, while not fixating on medical issues. I think too often we forget that the journalists of tomorrow are the student journalists of today, and that collegiate papers' coverage of religion can tell us much about where more general media coverage may go.

As a former student journalist myself, I could not agree more. The viewpoints and perspectives entrenched in today's newsrooms are often formed and shaped during college journalism careers. Influences range from the classroom to interaction with faculty and university officials, but sometimes a single story can have as great an impact as an entire semester of instruction.

The open and respectful perspective on Christian Science is apparent from the start of the article:

As morning gives way to afternoon, the cold wind blowing outside, a congregation comes to its feet at their pews and chairs. The church, with its crisp white walls and maroon carpet, stays warm with the heat of two fireplaces. Eight windows line the room with lit candles on their sills.

. . . Among them is East Lansing resident Jeanne Troutman, who stands in her usual spot at the back of the church with her husband, facing the front of the room with the words of Christ Jesus and Eddy before her.

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," reads the quote from Christ Jesus on the left.

"Divine love always has met and always will meet every human need," are the words of Eddy.

Troutman, a lifelong student of the Christian Science faith, is a member of the congregation of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, 709 E. Grand River Ave., and a Christian Science visiting nurse. She serves a vital role in the practicing of spiritual healing, which, she said, maintains the ideas of the first creation and the perfect God and the perfect man.

The religion of Christian Science was founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy, a Congregationalist who rejected the Christian ideas of predestination.

One could quibble with the statement that predestination is a Christian idea since not all Christian denominations accept it. It is in fact one of the most divisive and controversial theological issues one could find two Christians discussing. But that is a minor point on an overall tremendous article.

As our reader noted, the "medical issues" often fascinate reporters, causing them to miss other aspects of the faith. The article is particularly solid when it discusses the theological foundations of the faith:

Eddy went on to research Christian healing and is said to have performed several healings herself. "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," first published in 1875, remains the principle text in addition to the King James Version of the Bible.

However, other versions of the Bible are studied.

The main ideas of Eddy's book include the role of God as divine love, Father-Mother and as supreme, the spiritual role of man as child of God and the power of healing through God. The book has since been published in 17 languages and English Braille and is sold in 80 countries.

The mother church was built in Boston in 1894 and remains there to this day as the world headquarters for the religion.

One perspective on this student-published article is that is not encumbered with the burdens of the modern journalist. Real-life newsroom pressures such as deadlines and money do not press as much upon the innocent student. But then again, students have pressures in their lives as well.

Another, more optimistic, view is that tomorrow's journalists will be better at understanding and appreciating religion news. The increased attention today's journalist give religion -- for good and for bad -- will certainly raise the importance of religion coverage. I hope it will result in greater understanding and respect.

Please respect our Commenting Policy