For this week's Crossroads podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discussed media coverage of the spirituality of Wall Street protestors. We've frequently noted the hostile posture that many news outlets have toward those religious activists who have conservative positions but in many ways the treatment received by religious activists who have liberal positions is even worse. That's because they're largely ignored. This was definitely a problem with early coverage, although it has improved, as we discussed in a recent post.
The embedded CNN clip here -- about whether Jesus would Occupy Wall Street -- is so unbelievably stupid that I have little to say about it. I mean, it's not all bad and there's a nice clip of a Jewish protester explaining the role religion plays in his work, but it's just the whole approach that gets me -- and the clumsiness with which we're told what Pope Benedict XVI thinks about the economy and what Jesus would do. I guess I should give points for the reporter pointing out that Jesus wasn't actually focused on petitioning the government for redress of grievances.
Wilken and I also talked about the rather light international coverage and how that played out in looking at the recent turn of events in Libya. I did want to point out this helpful essay from Commentary about the usefulness of talking about a government based on sharia:
Saying a country’s legal system will be based on sharia law is about as descriptive as saying it will be based on the Ten Commandants or the teachings of Christ. Like Christianity, Judaism or any other religion, Islam is subject to countless interpretations. Sharia law has meant many different things in many different countries across the ages. Even Islamic fundamentalists are not all alike. Wahhabis rule in both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, yet liquor is readily available in the latter but not the former.
Islamist parties do not necessarily take their inspiration from the Taliban, Hamas, or the Iranian mullahs. In fact, the failure of all three of those Islamist regimes–in Afghanistan, Gaza and Iran–to deliver economic or social progress has done much to discredit them in the Muslim world. That doesn’t mean most Muslims are ready to embrace a strictly secular regime; but then even in Europe, Christian Democratic parties are common, and in the United States many political candidates claim to take their marching orders from the Almighty.
There is a yearning in the Islamic world for a new type of governance that can combine some traditional Muslim precepts with democracy and economic development. Turkey’s AK party is probably the exemplar of these yearnings, and while the AK, and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are highly problematic in many ways (not least for their militantly anti-Israel attitude), they are not a threat to the West in the same way that Hamas, Hezbollah, or Iran are.
Will Tunisia, Libya and other states manage to carve out their own “Islamic democratic” identity? That remains to be determined. Much depends on whether modernizing Islamist parties such as Ennahdha are sincere in their embrace of pluralism and minority rights, or whether their rhetoric along those lines has been designed to deceive.
This really is a complex story and one that could use much greater coverage. I'd again point folks to Reuters' FaithWorld for good updates for the time-challenged, such as this piece headlined "Arab Spring boosts political Islam, but which kind?"