The economy is big news these days. The rising gas prices and increasing number of foreclosures are important stories throughout the Midwest. When Indiana became a key state in the Democratic primary a few weeks ago, religion and the culture war issues took a back seat to economic plans, job growth issues and ideas about how to lower gas prices. Even Barack Obama's Rev. Wright issues seemed to drop off the radar in the days before Tuesday's election. But religious issues should never be so far removed from the public discussion that a 1,600-word article on the state of Middle America not mention religious issues at least once.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post's style section had a remarkably straightforward article on Muncie, Ind. Unless I'm missing something, there is no snark, but neither is there any mention of religion. Coming away from this article one would think that Muncie, Ind., doesn't have any churches or people who believe in God:
On the eve of the Indiana primary, does Muncie have anything to tell America? (And is it sick of being asked?)
"I don't know what to tell you about Muncie, but it's a dying town," says Ron Cantrell, working the cash register of a dusty liquor store on the south side of town, where things are bleakest. "It's almost dead. It's like a cockroach lying there with its legs in the air."
Muncie looks okay from certain angles, kind of like America. North of the White River, which bisects Muncie, things are pretty good. There's Ball State University and Ball Memorial Hospital, both large employers. There's Muncie Mall and the big-box stores, and -- why would anyone shop in Muncie's historic downtown anymore? How could those little shops possibly compare with Wal-Mart?
By leaving out religion, the article gives the impression that Muncie doesn't have anything to tell America about God or their churches.
In a slideshow attached to the on-line version of the article, there is a photograph of a church, so we know the reporters were aware of at least one house of worship. I have limited personal experience in Muncie, Ind., but friends of mine who grew up there would say that there are churches in Muncie that are apart of the community.
As newspapers shrink and reporting staffs dwindle, it becomes more important for reporters from every section of the newspaper to be aware of the religious issues in the stories they cover. This article was focused primarily on economic issues in Muncie, but that shouldn't mean religion should be left out.