How does anyone argue that covering the religion beat is boring work? I have never understood that complaint.
Yet, long ago, when I was doing the research for my graduate thesis at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, I asked many editors why their newspapers didn't do a better job of covering religion news. I consistently heard two answers, sometimes from the same editor.
Answer No. 1: Religion news is too controversial.
Answer No. 2: Religion news is too boring.
You see, there are just too many boring, controversial religion stories running around out there. That's the ticket.
I mean, check out this story from today's Washington Times, care of veteran Godbeat scribe Julia Duin. This is the kind of thing that happens on the religion beat. You take (1) a papal visit, combine it with (2) holy daggers, then add that to (3) security concerns in modern Washington, D.C., and you have a showdown between the Sikhs and the U.S. Secret Service:
Followers of a major Indian religion have been frozen out of an upcoming interfaith meeting with Pope Benedict XVI because of the group's insistence on wearing ceremonial daggers.
The meeting, scheduled for April 17 at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center near Catholic University, originally included Sikhs, as well as Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist guests. But a guest list released yesterday by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops substituted followers of another India-based religion -- the Jains -- in place of the Sikhs.
According to Sikh leaders, at issue was the Secret Service forbidding the wearing of the "kirpan," a dagger that is required dress for all Sikhs. Its followers liken its importance to their faith in the same way Orthodox Jewish men are required to wear a yarmulke.
Anahat Kaur, secretary general of the World Sikh Council/America Region near San Francisco, said Pope John Paul II met with kirpan-bearing Sikhs at the Vatican in January 2002. ... Numbered at more than 20 million adherents, Sikhism is the world's fifth largest religion. It has about 250,000 members in the United States.
A spokesman for the Secret Service said no weapon, no matter how sanctified its purpose, could be allowed within striking distance of a head of state.
There are other interesting details in this short A1 report, including the fact that Sikhs -- for obvious reasons -- have trouble getting on public airlines in this day and age.
Just another boring religion story. And, yes, I could not help thinking about Indira Gandhi. We live in a complex and dangerous world and that raises all kinds of questions for which there are no easy answers.