If we didn't require one to get to church, my husband and I might not own a car. And we've been really happy about not having to fill up the tank much as gas prices climb higher and higher. Business reporter Ronald White looked at how rising fuel costs are affecting houses of worship in a piece for the Los Angeles Times.
The piece has all the nuance you expect from a business story, beginning with the headline "Oil prices fuel fury from the pulpit." Hyperbole much? The drama continues. here's how White begins the story:
Record gasoline prices have been painful, but now they have begun to test the limits of faith.
In houses of worship nationwide, preachers are railing against the forces of energy evil, and congregations are praying for lower fuel prices.
In no way is the allegation (that record gasoline prices are testing the limits of anyone's faith) even close to substantiated. I know we work hard to make our ledes exciting, but they shouldn't lie.
The thing is that this is a great idea for a story. White shows that clergy are talking to their flocks about the problems faced by rising gasoline costs. And it certainly would be interesting to compare those churches that are genuine neighborhood churches versus rural congregations or ones with a significant commuter population:
The problem is affecting even the holy business, driving down attendance at churches, synagogues and mosques. Religious leaders are struggling to help their members cope, spinning new themes about a society that has become almost sinfully reliant on motorized transport. Others are viewing the energy-price squeeze as a test of the way they serve God and their communities.
White speaks with an Islamic Center of Southeran California official who says that many Muslims are only coming to pray three times a day instead of the customary five. But look again at that last excerpt. It's interesting that synagogues are grouped in with churches and mosques. As Brad Greenberg of the Jewish Journal's God Blog notes:
White, however, apparently did not speak with any rabbis or synagogue presidents. If he had, they might have told him that Orthodox Jews and many Conservative Jews do not drive on the Sabbath. In fact, most gentiles could have answered that question just as well.
Greenberg's headline is priceless: "LA Times: High gas prices forcing Jews to walk on Sabbath." Anyway, it's not like Los Angeles doesn't have significant Jewish populations. It just seems that a story on how gas prices are impacting worship attendance should make note of those populations that don't believe in driving to worship no matter the price.