Trump, the Paris climate change accord and the accepted Kellerism that shaped the coverage

Some of you undoubtedly will consider this post naive.

If that includes you, please take a moment to bust my bubble in the comments section below. Hopefully, you'll do that only after you read this post to its end.

Nonetheless, I think it's worth acknowledging an unspoken Kellerism, one I'm taking the liberty of labeling the Ultimate Kellerism.

(Kellerism is a GetReligion term referring to the newsroom attitude that a particular issue has been sufficiently settled -- to the satisfaction of a newsroom's leaders -- so as to negate the need for dissenting voices to receive fair and accurate coverage.)

I believe it's worth pointing out now because of its behind-the-scenes role in the uproar over President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change accord.

The Kellerism in question?

That would be the widely, if not near universally, shared human belief that the pursuit of ever more material wealth trumps -- sorry, but the word seems appropriate -- all other human motivations, and should be the prime determinate when making political calculations. This is a doctrine so broadly accepted that it guides both the politicos and the journalists (on left and right) involved in this story.

Or, to put it another way, that jobs and finances are what people care about above all else. It's corollary is that this is so because material security is the quickest way to achieve the sense of inner security that is the deepest of human cravings, and perhaps the most difficult to satisfy. (More on this below.)

That's how the president has framed his decision, rooting his public arguments entirely within an economic paradigm. His political opponents have, likewise, rooted their counter-arguments in economic terms -- green energy job growth versus fossil fuel job growth, for example.

What is never considered is whether the material gain that both sides accept as the starting point for all political arguments is all it's assumed to be.

The press, both the elite mainstream media as well as the fully politicized not-so-elite-press, both being products of the same materialistic mindset, serves merely as a conduit for the perpetuation of this worldview. Rarely are the soul-crunching underpinnings of the global economic order questioned in our major political calculations.

Why? Because virtually all of us buy into the emphasis on economics, to lesser or greater degrees. That's how we've been socialized.

I realize that on the most immediate of levels I'm spitting into the wind here. Neither the American political discourse or the closely related standard media discourse will change anytime soon, if ever.

I also understand that for the overwhelming majority of the world's people, making financial ends meet is the day's paramount concern.

Also, I'll admit that perhaps I'm able to take myself seriously here only because I'm privileged to be high enough up Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for this to be an intellectual concern. I don't have to worry about my immediate physical needs. I've never had to survive deep and long-lasting economic deprivation and all the stresses that go with it.

But I still think that religion journalists would do well to at least consider for a moment why economics is automatically assumed -- once again, by journalists and political leaders -- to be the most important consideration when our government makes decisions related to the environment, health care, education and other such critical human issues.

Every major world religion has within its basket of teachings, warnings about the danger of becoming lost in the marketplace, of the harm that can do to an individual's moral and spiritual standing. Yet living more simply, with less material possessions, just doesn't seem to be the preferred path of choice, certainly not for the majority of self-professed believers.

So, religion scribes, what does this say about the contemporary state of religious thinking and practice? What does this indicate about religion's ability to influence those who profess faith? What does this say about the human heart and the nature of human cultures?

What does this say about our preferred political candidates?

You could interview leaders and members of the houses of worship in your area to see what they think about these questions. (Admittedly, you might have a tough time convincing most editors this is worth your staff time.)

To be sure, some religious leaders did reference moral and religious considerations in their media responses to Trump's climate accord decision.

This Religion News Service story, a roundup of early religious reaction to the Paris pull out,  contains several such responses.

So does this roundup that appeared on the website of New York's liberal Auburn Seminary.

However, no where that I saw did any of those quoted openly question the basic assumptions about the pursuit of material wealth, not to mention contemporary consumerism. Here's a sample of what I mean from the Auburn website (where it seems only liberal religious voices were quoted; another Kellerism?).

For many faith communities, climate change and caring for the earth is a matter of spiritual urgency and faith rooted environmentalists reacted to the executive order calling it “morally unjustifiable.”
“President Trump campaigned on a platform of concern for vulnerable people over political and economic elites,” said Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, national organizer and spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (Y.E.C.A.).
"As young evangelical Christians, we reject President Trump’s repudiation of overwhelming climate science. We reject his demonstrated preference for a handful of fossil fuel elites over the millions of vulnerable people around the world whose very lives are threatened by the impacts of climate change. We refuse to stay silent as God’s creation is actively and wantonly exploited.”

So what do you think? Am I being Pollyanish? Wasting my time with foolishness?

I don't think so. Rather, I just think that serious journalism requires us to dig deeper to understand what makes our readers act as they do.

OK, it's now time to speak your mind in the comments section below.

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