Religion in Everyday Life: Lynn Neary - Exploring the Landscape of Religious America

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As part of MPR's month-long series of programs and reports on "Religion in Everyday Life,” Lynn Neary, National Public Radio's religion correspondent, gives a speech in the Twin Cities titled "Exploring the Landscape of Religious America."

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6 minutes now pass 12:00 Good afternoon, and welcome back to mid-day on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary Yankton few years ago. It would have been very unusual for a news organization to assign a reporter full-time to the religion beat course, when a major news event occurred it would get covered things like the Billy Graham Crusades papal visits and the like but very few media Outlets provided any kind of ongoing coverage of religion in the last few years that has changed and they were going to find out more about what prompted that change in approach to the coverage of religion are speaking. Today is legendary the religion correspondent for National Public Radio Lynn, like so many other religion reporters had other assignments before taking over the religion Beach. He's a served as a weekend hosts of all things considered. She's been the host of Talk of the Nation. She's been hurt as a newscaster on the Morning Edition program, but these day is linear his assignment is religion and she was in the Twin Cities this my To discuss her work her visit was part of Minnesota public radio's broadcast journalist series and coincides with our month-long series of programs on religion in everyday life linear. He spoke at the Macalester College Chapel in St. Paul the title of her speech was exploring the landscape of religious America. I was standing in the back Matt. I think it's mad as his name said to me, what is it mean to be a religious correspondent? And so the first thing I have to say is I'm not necessarily a religious correspondent, but I am a religion correspondent and I think when you tell people that you cover religion, it's a little bit like giving somebody a Rorschach test know those tests where you hand out inkblots and people are told to look at the ink blots and CD images there you get a really wide variety of actions when you tell people reactions when you tell people you cover religion, the first is the O religion that's interesting. As a person is looking over your shoulder to see if there's somebody more interesting that they can talk to on the other side of the room and the other is stunned silence really stunned silence followed by Did you ask to do that, or do they make you do that? Then the fair number people will say oh you cover religion. Listen, there's an event at my church that I would really like you to come out and cover and can you call me sometime and I'll tell you all about it. And then there's a really fascinating subject that must be a really fascinating read and that's usually followed by very long conversation during which I learned a person's entire lifetime spiritual journey from baptism to Buddhism. And I think what that variety of reaction reveals is that religion is extremely personal and that your feelings about religion are formed by your own personal experiences with it. A lot of people have had very little experience with religion in their life and they don't feel a need for basically it leaves them cold. They're just not interested unless they feel that someone's trying to impose their religious values on them and which case they may react very strongly other people have batiks. Religion and have a kind of hostile attitude toward religion for a religion reporter that can be difficult because virtually nothing you can do or say is ever going to make that person happy. They just don't like religion. That's the end of that. The person is trying to get you to cover their story. Will you're going to run into that if you're a journalist no matter what your beat is, but I think there's a certain intensity about the religious people because I think that people in the world of religion feel that the media overlooks and and frequently slights them and and doesn't report on them enough and that probably is a legitimate gripe when we can get into that a little bit more but I would say in general most people really actually fall into the last category because whether you're religious or not religion and spiritual matters really intrigued lot of people and most of us, I think have grappled with questions of faith and morality throughout our lives. Why do people who have no faith kind of Envy those who do some people who may be had a strong faith as a child urine for that face again, and a lot of people just want to know more about what it means to be faithful or spiritual or religious. They are just simply curious. I think one of the things that probably has surprised me the most since I started doing this beat is the way people react to certain kinds of stories particularly the stories that I called the pure Faith stories and one example, and this was probably one of the first time that I began to have that sense of how curious people are about religion did fairly early on in the beat about Ash Wednesday. And the way that story came about was that I had done up a four-part series on Muslims in America. And after I did that a colleague came up and she said, you know, you never reported my people and I said well who are your people and she said episcopalians? You never bored out of his Coppelia and do something on a biscuit. Ash. Wednesday is coming up to something and an actually after she chastise me. I remembered that the year before there been an intern working with us who came in one day and she said the funniest thing just happened to me on the bus. I was riding on the bus with my boyfriend and I saw all these people with big slashes of dirt on their forehead and I didn't know what it was and it was just I thought it was so funny. I got hysterical and then my boyfriend finally said, why does Ash Wednesday and she said I'd never heard of that what she knew nothing about Ash Wednesday had never heard of it. Didn't know what it was about she was in California, so I don't know maybe that expensive anyway, I thought well, maybe there's a lot of people out there that don't really know what Ash. Wednesday isn't even though. I was raised a Catholic there have just snuck it in and revealed it. I thought do I really remember what it's all about. So, I began working on the story and going back and doing some research and one thing about the religion beat is I feel like I've been taking sort of comparative religion 101 ever since I started because I'm constantly having to to learn about things that either I should know like Ash Wednesday or things that I have never heard of it before so it's the learning curve is very high. But then going back and researching it was turned out to be very interesting and then I found out also that a number of Protestant denominations that had left rituals like Ash Wednesday and lent behind during the Reformation. We're returning to Ash Wednesday because of the fact that people were feeling a need for that kind of ritual in their lives, which was a very interesting part of the story. So it it turned out to be an interesting story. No, I as a journalist had these moments of Doubt as I was starting to thinking. What am I doing? I'm doing a story and Ash Wednesday. How could I be this isn't journalism career, but in the end when that story aired it got incredible ration book from listeners and within NPR in my office people just love the story and they they would come up to me and it's am so glad you did that story because I always wondered why people had ashes on their forehead and I just was too embarrassed to ask or assumed I should know and they were just really just fascinated to hear the history in the explanations and also given the media my work in radio. I had gone that in the morning of Ash Wednesday this ran in the evening program in all things considered and I had taped the Ash Wednesday service, which has had great Reno from dust we came and to dust we shall return and play that on the radio that night and scared everybody. You know, I'm so Just it it showed to me. What a great amount of curiosity there is out there about religion and So people are interested in religion. They're curious about it and some sometimes it just Rings purely intellectual reasons, but but other times people are really curious because they themselves are on a spiritual journey. They're looking for something a lot of people in it now in this country fit into the category of the Seeker and the Seeker what is is defined by? Those in religion circles as those who are looking for some kind of spiritual fulfillment and they're willing to try out all kinds of different spiritual experiences. And I think the growth of what we call the secret generation is one of the reasons that you might that might explain this a recent upsurge you may have seen in some in the media coverage of religion news magazine covers on everything from angels to the Shroud of Turin to the Virgin Mary to Buddhism are very likely a response if nothing else to demographics because there are a lot of seekers in the ever influential and very large Baby Boom generation since the sixties the Baby Boomers and then their children have been exploring all kinds of different spiritual paths. How many the Baby Boomers who left traditional religion behind or are coming back often because they feel in Need for community. So they returned to church looking for Community frequently because they have They want that Community for their children. They also want the church as a moral base for teaching children. I think I've done some stories on on that with parents talking about, you know, the difficulty they feel when they're up about their own moral underpinnings with some of the real complex and difficult really scary moral dilemmas that they face as parents in that they know their own children are facing so it may be a little bit of a security blanket, but they go back to church hoping that that might help them with that task. Some people are returning to religion and finding spirituality through 12 step programs the kind of programs that help people overcome, very serious addiction alcohol drug addictions and many people in the secret generation have left behind what we think of as the traditional Western religions and are finding a new kind of spiritual life. True Religion and Native American religion in paganism and a New Age religion is a combination of all those things. What are the biggest religious trends of the last decade is the growth of what is known as the secret shirt? And that's a non-denominational Christian Church that strips away all the trappings of church there. No pues. There are no stained glass windows. Most of them actually look like theaters and are based on theaters. And there's a good reason for that because many of their services are extremely entertaining entertainment as part of the service. It depends very much on lively music frequently. They have played in the middle. The service preaching is a good strong lightly preaching is a good part of it and and these are intended to bring people back into church. What what what they call the insurance back into church a people who may have been turned off by the trappings of traditional religion to bring them back and they have these very large Sunday services that attract cows. The people in in some cases and then they also offer smaller Services. They figure out what the community needs what people want the offer babysitting Services. They offer Financial Services sometime counseling small group sessions. They really they really trying to figure out people want and offer it to them and it seems to work because they really attract large congregations and the secret roaches are frequently referred to as megachurches. There's some other trends that point to a growth or or perhaps a renewal of interest in religion in this country. We see sales of religious and spiritual books and literature and nonfiction skyrocketing many many books with spiritual religious themes on the bestseller list not just a religion based out of this the general bestseller list, the religious music industry is booming Hollywood has taken notice with the TV programs like Touched by an Angel which was in the you know, the top five of the Nielsen ratings. For many weeks last season and then you know also movies are now being made with religious things. We seen a couple movies come out about Buddhism and then Robert Duvall's wonderful film The Apostle. I don't know if I've seen that but he becomes a Pentecostal preacher at the end of that movie. I thought this is a busman's holiday for me. I ate the last half-hour is a church service, but you know and I got certainly respectable numbers of people went to see that he was nominated for an Academy Award. So we see in the popular culture was he signs that this interest is there so it's no wonder that the news media caught up. There's something going on out there. Maybe we should take a look into it. But waiting into the Waters of religion is a tricky thing for reporter because how do you report on something that is in a sense ineffable on reportable in some kind of way. Do you have to abandon all of journalistic objectivity when you're dealing with The face and it's not like you can challenge someone's belief in the Virgin birth, you know in the same way. You could challenge their belief in the flat tax although Well, maybe you could have been any way matters of Faith are matters of Faith after all but there's a virgin birth of the flat text. So what what can be gained by try to hold them up to journalistic screwtape scrutiny that defected I think that the media and the public both are a little uneasy about giving religion a place in the world of public discourse. Sometimes it is easy to see why you would cover politics economics Sports. Even the Arts. You can understand why they will get covered. But religion should we maybe we got to the church page to believe that some special place? Maybe we shouldn't give it a prominent place in the coverage of news. Why should we will depart from what we've already been discussing the fact that people are interested and curious about it. I think there's a lot of very good reasons for the news media to pay attention to religious and spiritual trends. First of all, if you want to do stories that reflect the growth of diversity in this country, you need look no further than the mosques and temples and churches of this country when I look back on the last about four years that I've been kind of religion. I'm amazed about the range of experiences that I've had. I have sat in the women's section of an African-American mask scarf wrapped around my head as I recorded Friday afternoon prayer services. I have watched the members of a huge Charismatic Christian Church in Colorado Springs dance in the aisles to rock music on Sunday morning Services. I join hundreds of thousands of Catholics at the Giants stadium in New York City waiting for the pope to come waiting for hours in the rain for the pope to come and then sitting for another couple of more hours while the pope celebrated, Mass. I've watch young African American kids in Brooklyn stump for Jesus at their Sunday morning Services. I've attended a pagan ritual celebrating spring. Would you all might want to do actually know these days but and that occurred in a Unitarian Universalist Church, that was the Pagan Community within the Unitarian Universalist Church of a whole story in itself, which which I did I sat in an auditorium in Suburban, Virginia while hundreds of people practiced mindful breathing under the careful teaching of the Buddhist monk tick not Han I have even been to a Muslim Pow Wow in Georgia O'Keeffe country in Abiquiu, New Mexico and a x i really felt more like an anthropologist and journalists as I've soaked in these very very different cultural experiences, and there are times when I really do approach a story more like an anthropologist and a journalist. When I do that every specifically want my Approach has a journalist to be very open. I want to understand what people believe why they believe what they do. I want to get them to talk to me about their face. So I'm very curious. I'm very empathetic and I want to hear their stories. I think when I did that series on Muslims in America, I took that kind of approach because this was my first real delving into Islam and what is Islam all about and it's not something I knew very much about and there are many different weather one kind of Muslim, but they're their main muscles from many different countries living now in the United States and and shaping their faith in this country and their faith communities. So I really wanted to approach are the very open open mind and also I think Muslims are particularly Particular targets of stereotypes and it's really hard to cut through those stereotypes in find out what they're really about how they feel what they're what their beliefs are. One of my favorite stories ever in journalism happened as I was doing that see reason. It happened at that African-American mosque in Brooklyn. I had gone there to interview some older members of the mosque who had once been members of the Nation of Islam and a lot of African Americans came to traditional Orthodox Islam through Nation of Islam left Nation of Islam and became traditional Muslims. So I wanted to interview some people who had made that kind of transition. So in order to interview them, I I wrote on the van with them to to to Friday afternoon prayer service is Muslims have prayer services at noon on Friday. That's their main service of the week that mostly everybody was very happy to talk to me and I got some good interviews, but there was one woman is very cold. Barely spoke to me turned away from really did not want anything to do with me. So I thought that was fine. I didn't need to talk to her head other interviews. We proceeded Austin mosque. We got there and prayer services began. I went into the women's section. I took a scarf on my head took off my shoes I said is the tradition and I I did my taping from back there. And after we came and prayer service the same one came up to me like we were all friends and me see this was incredibly friendly to me and she said I saw you at the prayer service and and I hope everything was fine. I hope you're getting everything you need. You said, you know, I didn't recognize you at first with a scarf on your head and I realized that she had completely changed her attitude toward me when she realize that I had been respectful of the traditions of a Muslims and that I was willing to do that. But what was funny about it was the reason I was amused was because I was only white person in that mosque. So I thought the scarf on my head completely changed the way I looked at me. I found that very amusing and they were fighting over that. But anyway, I I I do find that frequently making myself as invisible as possible is very useful in reporting religion kind of just trying to put myself very much in the background and that goes to the question and we can talk about this a little bit more later. But the question that was raised earlier about my own faith putting that in the background be very open to to what people are telling you try and understand it so that you can explain it and believe me that being invisible thing is a neat trick when you're the only woman at a promise Keepers rally. That's that can be tough to but I do like to immerse myself in a situation because I want to be able to draw listeners into the experience. I want listeners hear about the really rich variety of religions and the great diversity of religion in this country. I think it's really important that people understand how diverse the religious landscape of this country really is because the other part of my job the other part of covering religion often deals with the clashes that occur because of that diversity because there are so many different beliefs in this country ranging from everything from atheism to to Christianity, but let me take that I did recently and talked about that a little bit because I think it reveals a lot about the changing landscape of religion in America and the way we as a society or sometimes reacting to that change and also got the politics or religion this story occurred and loud. County Virginia now when I first moved to Washington 6 years ago, Loudoun County was a place that you went for a ride in the country and has a beautiful part of the country is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains many many picks picturesque farm houses in little towns. And there's one Tiny Town there that looks exactly as it did in the time of George Washington's day and they are constantly fighting to keep it that way but it is also County where development is moving in and I'm one side of the county to County closest to DC. It's many many subdivisions are going in a lot of Industrial Development and tons of roads and highways linking it all a lot of people in this country living area is very similar to to Loudoun County have traveled a lot and I've seen a lot of very similar kinds of areas around the country that people move their from cities hoping that perhaps they're going to get away from some of the problems of the sea. He's an older suburbs. So recently in Loudoun County word. Got out that a Muslim Academy was trying to get permission to build a big new campus in the county and there was a huge up for the school would eventually according to plans. It was going to come at 8:35 hundred students. It was going to be built in a part of the county where soda straddled a residential area and Industrial Area and is going to be financed by the Saudi government because the Saudi government had originally at Finance existing school for its employees in Washington DC and then other Muslims had started to send their children to the school. I'm not multiple first heard about the school. Most people in the county didn't really know anything about it. It was one before is zoning hearing. I was very routine kind of thing. The the the attorney for the school said as a zoning issue, it was a no-brainer. There was no problem but a flyer went out in one of the residential neighborhoods warning the school is going to be billed saying that thousands of Arabs were going to be over running loud and Counting during the day while people were at work and raising the Specter of terrorism in Loudoun County was a really incendiary piece of writing a lot of attention in the community and the media revealed a deep level of fear deep level of Suspicion about Muslims and eventually the store get even more complicated because the pastor of a Christian Church. What I would Define as one of these mega churches are secret church has he got involved in it, and he said, well, I'm not opposed because their muscles I'm opposed because of the Saudi government involvement in the school and he raised The issue of Christian persecution. He said The Saturdays are persecuting Christians in their country. And as long as they're doing that they shouldn't be able to build something in this country. Now as a religion reporter that really perked up my ears because I have been covering that story in Congress because there's a Bill in Congress. The freedom from religious persecution act that would impose economic sanctions against countries that allow religious persecution to occur and a number of prominent Conservative Christian organizations have made that a including the Christian Coalition has said this is one of our top legislative priorities are really pushing for Congress to act on that legislation. So I was very intrigued by that eventually The school got permission to to build but to me this was a really American story of the story of our times in America because when you peel back the layers, it seems to reveal a lot about our society first the part of the county that as I said before really could be anywhere USA. I mean the houses look the same the stores with the same industrial parks in office as they all look like hundreds of other developing areas of this country. This is the new landscape of America. This is the new Suburbia and this story really shows that the new Suburbia promises to be every bit as complex and challenging as what has been left behind it reveals the the potential for tension that exists between the many differing people who now make up our society. I mean the rhetoric used against Muslims here at a certain point. This debate was really very intense and at times I think people lost sight of the fact that they were talking about us. Cool, and when they were really talking about they were talking about children and they were talking about people who had a commitment to educating their children in a particular Faith, which is something that we've had as part of the fabric of our society for a long time. But the fact they were Muslims really raise it to a whole other issue a great deal of fear. And if you know anything about the way religion is developing this country also know that Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in this country. There are already more Muslims than episcopalians. So Islam is going to be a very important part of the landscape of religion in America for in the future and it's something that people need to begin to understand a little more than I think they do. Finally I think this story showed how a very sophisticated religiously-motivated political organization can influence disputes on a local level when I interview that Christian pastor. Who did literature that had been sent to him by Conservative Christian organizations? And this was the first time that I personally had seen the issue surface and a Grassroots kind of way and it was really interesting for me to share some of the same arguments and I've been hearing an official Washington inside-the-beltway up on Capitol Hill at news conference is being played out in a different way in a local dispute. And now that I've introduced that idea of a sophisticated religiously-motivated movement. I would like to talk a little bit about the fact that we do have the Christian right in this country and it is a very sophisticated political movement has been with us since the 70s with the coming of the Moral Majority. I think it's going to transition right now. Thank we all know Ralph Reed who was the head of the Christian Coalition brought that organization to apri high level of visibility and Alexa to go cloud with in Washington, but only one of a whole range of organizations that I would say make up the religious right you have organizations like the family research Council. I had by Gary Bauer who's kind of friend position himself as a new real Freedom. Not sure he's going to make it but he's kind of trying to do that and he's even talking about making a presidential bid right now. He has a lot of influence of fair amount of influence in Washington James Dobson and focus on the family is linked with that organization. That's he's he's out in Colorado Springs has a syndicated radio program concerned women for America is a whole range of organizations that make up what we think of as a Christian, right? And I think they're trying to figure out where they're at right now. They're thinking of what their strategies going to be. I think Reed had pushed the Christian right to a pretty pragmatic approach to politics and precising economic issues along with social issues, which was a very successful. Strategy, but some people on the religious right or feeling like maybe it was a sell-out strategy and are saying we're going to push harder on our social agenda Gary Bauer and James Dobson are both so sending signals to the Republican party that don't expect us necessarily to go along with what you want unless you really show us that you're going to support our issues. So it's hard to say I'm in love in different unit that people have said in various times the Christian right? It's it's finished. It's not going to come back. So I would never say that I I I think it's a I think it's really part of our political process right now. I think it's become a permanent part of our political process and as with other special interest groups, it's it's going to Wax and Wane its influence, but I think it's there and I think it will still be an influential and influential part of our politics. It's been interesting because I guess when I first started covering conservative Christians, I myself was a little surprised by how mainstream many two people seemed. I think there's some truth to the fact that they've been demonized a bit and you know, sometimes when I would be talking with my more liberal colleagues are friends and they would act like I was hanging out with aliens from another planet when I was covering conservative Christians. I say what I think so many people maybe your neighbors. They don't really look any different from you and me, so it's hard to tell and I was also surprised by the anger that I found on the religious, right? I think the growth of the Christian right has been fueled by that anger by by a sense that Christian values have been reviled scorned and ignored in the public Arena and especially the media and that the media have depicted Christians as poor and ignorant fools. So Christians say the Christian people the person that say they want a seat at the table the political table and I say that's fine. I think the Democratic process allows for that but some people believe that the Christian right really is anathema that they should have no partner politics and I say what I think you're wrong about that. I say join the Democratic Fray if you're opposed to the Christian, right and you know, you have every right to to fight back within the Democratic process as well. But I always remember is something that Ralph Reed said to me in an interview, which is that he wants it while we're no longer calling ourselves the moral majority because we know really not the majority but that was an interesting admission, but I have it on tape somewhere and but he said, you know in an election. Is only 30% of the people are going out to vote. Then you only need 16% of the vote to win. And this is a really brilliant political strategist Ralph. This is a man who's really study the system in this figured out to make it work. So I think that should give opponents of the Christian right some pause and If the Christian right has been effective in gaining political power it's because they've been able to turn out those voters at election time. And there's a real lesson there for those who are concerned about the role that the religious right is playing in American politics right now. I think we really trust in the democratic system. If we really work at it and let it work for us many of the potential conflicts that arise because of religious political differences really can be worked out and having said that I also have to say that I think it's really dangerous when religion people do try to impose their own religious values on others and I think again, you have to understand there's a range of people on the religious, right and I think some are more extreme than others and I think there are some who believe we should go back to biblically based Christian Nation that notion of a Christian Nation is problematical not only to non-christians to sand and Wilson's but it also Poses a problem for many Christians a lot of mainstream Protestants and Catholics are upset while they're more than upset actually, but they deeply resent the fact that the word Christian has been politicized and they don't necessarily accept the Christian rights definition of Christianity. They have their own idea about what it means to be Christian. So when we're talking about religious diversity in this country, we're not like I'm a different kinds of religions but learning about each other and understand each other games while we're also talking about the need to reconcile differences within the dominant religion Christianity and I think one example of that you can see within many Protestant church is right now a terribly divisive issue for the Protestant churches right now is homosexuality whether to ordain openly gay clergy or perform same-sex marriages. We just had in Nebraska Rev Jimmy Creech a Methodist Minister was put on Trial for presiding over a blessing ceremony for a gay couple couple years ago. You piss companions try to Bishop for ordaining and openly gay Deacon who then later became ordained as a minister that was known as the infamous heresy trial even though in the end they decided there wasn't any heresy but the media did glom onto heresy and that attract a lot of media attention and hear the present denomination has been trying to Grapple with this issue for years and they have had so many different statements and debates and arguments about it and no final resolution seems to be in sight and some of the churches that's possible will be permanently divided over it and these kinds of struggles that are going on in these two nominations. They're struggling with an issue like homosexually, they really are a reflection of what's going on in the larger culture. What's going on in a smaller place? Bubbles up from from churches and gets played out in a religious venue and homosexuality is one of those real hot button issues with in religion and in the larger culture, it seems to push everybody is emotional button abortion is another school prayer is another and a lot of times I get the feeling that people just wish these issues would go away couldn't we all just agree to disagree and the fact is I think these really contentious cultural issues are not going to go away people feel really passionately and deeply about these issues and many people's opinions about these kinds of issues or forced by their religious beliefs or by their opposition or dislike for religion, which is one of the reasons we need to understand you'll get a basic understanding of where people are at in terms of their belief system so that then we can understand why their feelings about it are so strong in the police. Karina is it really that there are certain issues that we're really going to think in different and creative ways about because the political belief really is a matter of faith mean an issue like abortions like that have for Catholics. It's it's a question of Faith. So, how do you how do you work that out in a democratic process? I don't have the answer for that. But it's it's it's something we really have to Grapple with. I mean, I guess I guess my answer really is somewhat cliched sounding but I think the only way ultimately that you do try and work these things out. If I try and understand each other and keep talking to each other because the thing that that I find endlessly intriguing about religion is its potential to be a force for both good and evil, you will always find religious people on the front line of any war against poverty you go cover homelessness and you're going to find religious people are the people who are running the homeless shelters there. The people are in a soup kitchens, they're running the hospices and they are willing to go to neighborhoods and deal with people that the rest of us would just as soon forget. It's really impressive and it's really inspiring but as much as I've been inspired by that kind of religious activity and deeply moved by displays of faith in in a variety of of venues around the country. I'm also acutely aware of the dark side. And I think we all know that at the beginning of some of the most intractable and bloody conflict all over the world was religion Bosnia Northern Ireland Middle East ancient hatreds playing themselves out in modern terms in these conflict and those hatreds rooted in religious difference is I think it's society's inability to resolve religious differences in a civilized manner as possible runs the risk of dividing itself violently and tragically and again, all I can say is let us believe in the democratic system was continue to talk each other and let's learn about each other understand each other is such an important part of coming up with new Solutions. And also finally, I think we have to learn to treasure our religious diversity because it really is an exciting and amazing and challenging landscape out there. It's filled with quiet moment. Meditation and prayer it's filled with the moment of Joyful celebration filled with dancing song. It's filled with endless examples of generosity and selflessness and it's filled with people who are grappling with tough questions and struggling to make sense of the world. And for myself as a journalist is really a treasure chest full of stories that I think reveal the heart of a culture. Thank you. National public radio's Lynn Neary speaking this month at the Macalester College Chapel in St. Paul visit was part of Minnesota public radio's broadcast journalist series following her speech lanieri took some questions from the audience Minnesota public radio's Kate Smith armed with are sometimes scratchy wireless microphone. Did her best Oprah Winfrey imitation as the moderator of the question-and-answer session and asked the first question one of the things I wonder about Lynn, Is how we have seen the media pay more attention to issues of Faith. You are a religion correspond, right? ABC has a religion correspond it. Is there any part of you that feels a little bit like somehow the public nature of what we do is journalists superimposes in an odd way onto what is truly a terribly person private thing. Well, I think that's what I that's what I think that anytime you bring a microphone and especially a television camera and to a lesser degree a reporter with a notebook and a pen a pen or pencil. You can in some way change what is going on in that place and that's a danger when you're reporting on on religion and that's why I was talking about that sense of trying to become invisible and some kind of way of really trying to fade into the background because I really I do think the reporting on religion does require A sensitivity that you maybe don't have to bring to some other kinds of reporting is that the only area of reporting that requires a great deal of sensitivity, but it's one of those areas that does require that so that you you don't so that you can get people to reveal that private part of themselves because I think it I think it is a very personal thing and you have to be careful to that that eagerness I was talking about before I was telling Kate earlier that actually I've never had anybody say I don't want to be interviewed by you about my religion. In fact people seem quite eager to talk about it, but there's a little bit of a danger there because when you're covering religion, there's a danger that people are going to try and evangelize through you to your audience. And so you have to be careful that people aren't going to try and use the media and and when you're interviewing them on your later doing your story, I think have to be really careful the filter that still do that out or So that through the story, but it's just I think it just requires a greater sensitivity in terms of how you approach people and I think you really need to get people to trust you that you are not going to in some way denigrate or make fun or not take their belief seriously because then they won't they won't talk to you. Oh, yes, Miss. Terry. I know this is a hard question to depend down but I just like to know it your thoughts and feelings about this. You said in your remarks that there is in this country at present. People are are seeking a religious Foundation immoral for moral underpinnings. And I've also heard and writers have been saying for the last twenty or thirty years that this Society has become. to rationalistic into scientific and that you know, it's it's the machine that controls man and we serve the machine rather than machine serving man and that there's a spiritual void and Erich Fromm Rollo May the existentialists have said this and I was just wondering you know, what what are your feelings and thoughts about about this issue if it is an issue orders that you know, I may as well believe in God as in some of the things that the signs reporters report on mars, or I went to attend a conference where a couple of men written books recently were setting out to scientifically prove the existence of God and one of them was mathematically he was trying to prove the existence of God and I said no matter what I said, my understanding of math is so pathetic that it is easier for me to believe in God than to believe that whatever you were talking about in any way makes sense whatsoever. I have greater faith in God then in your mathematical theorems. So but I know I think you really hit upon what so many people are saying and I think more eloquently than I'm able to say it but that there is a spiritual void if there's a void from many people in many people's lies and maybe there's a Fear to that in this Society has been undergoing a. Of change at let's say maybe started thirty years ago. I say start in the sixties. That's when I remembered and you'll 30 years is not a huge long. Of time. So I think we're still undergoing societal change. I think it's left people a little unsettled and we've gone through. Of incredible material and economic growth and we will Gotten you nobody's gotten what they can get that those who are able to benefit material materially. We live in a consumer Society. They've been able to get the car get the how to get the clothes. They want to follow all the trends and still there's this was an emptiness there. So I think for many people not for everybody before for a lot of people They had it just hasn't made them happy the pursuit of the job episode of the career. The pursuit of of material Goods has not particularly made them happy and they are looking for something else and they also see things going on around them. They don't know how to deal with as I said before. I think a lot of people are hard doing it through children to I think people are worried about their children. I think people are scared for the children and people see things going on with their children at earlier ages when we can mention. Just you know, what we know just happened in Jonesboro. Is it nobody's an explanation? Why is that happening immediately you saw the people in Jonesboro going to church. I don't know where all those people going to church as in his crate numbers the week before that, maybe not I'm so that is bringing people back but a lot of people don't want to go back to the tradition. They were brought up in and so they have to look for something else. I just interviewed and Thurmond who is there prom? In the world of Buddhism Tibetan Buddhism. He was the first Tibetan Buddhist monk in this country American to become a western movie, Tibetan Buddhist monk and they're responsible for kind of spread knowledge about Buddhism in this country and he talked a lot about about the fact that people are feeling that boy and people are feeling the sort of paucity of material wealth, and that's why they're trying to things like looking for things in and often turn to Buddhism. In a religious community where we enjoy the First Amendment and where we have protection of tax burdens and so forth. I wondered what your evaluation was of the waves of marketing methods and the promise of Economics between religious communities. Is it the third and I've only done three different questions come up a couple of times and that's interesting to me and it makes me want to look even a little closer at a but that mega church movement that I was talking about. That that's up movement that there's something called the mega church movement that mean there's a there's actually a center where it where people can go and get advice on how to build their church so that they can get more people coming to an end use some of the techniques that have been successful in some of these really big congregations and very specifically marketing techniques. I mean the man that's best known for the one of the best-known pastors of mega churches is Batman and Bill hybels at Willow Creek Church to South Side Chicago and one of the ways that he developed his church was he actually went around and told people he surveyed people what do you like about church? What don't you like about church and then he built she created a church based on what people said they liked about church and what they don't like about church they don't they'll it turned out. They didn't like having being asked to give money so they hold off on asking for money. If I'm not exactly sure. I can remember how they do it exactly what they don't do it. It's really don't do it at the first service. Let somebody comes to and you know, they didn't people didn't people were turned off by Puscifer were turned off by by Boring music is so you know, as I said the church's look like theaters. These are some of the fastest-growing most successful churches. What's interesting is that some of the Protestant denominations we've been losing people have looked to that movement and have said, how can we use what they're doing to start bringing people back to our church. So some of it comes from that the growth of that of the mega churches in a techniques that use them in some people refer to some of those mega churches as of the mall in the mall churches because some of them almost have a feel of them all as I was saying there's a big service but then they provide all kinds of a little small groups and group services in that sort of thing and some of his great idea that mean one of the things that struck me when I was reading about the Willow Creek, they had they used to church members is volunteers and they had a one of the things they had was a car repair service so that say a single mother and they use as an example of a woman is a single mother who can't afford to get her car fixed and she needs her car for the job can bring it to the car repair service. And one of the church members is a volunteer will fix her car for free. That's a brilliant idea. You know, I made me so they've really figured out the people's needs and they're providing those needs and they're there their they're not the marketing technique, but then they're also providing a service that somebody really need that really help somebody so it's an interesting Trend that's going on. We are out of time. Thank you all for coming and being here and thank you very much in correspondence speaking earlier this month at the Macalester College Chapel in St. Paul or visit to the Twin Cities was part of Minnesota public radio's broadcast journalist series, and of course coincides with our month-long series of reports on religion in everyday life. If you miss the part of Lynn Neary speech we will be rebroadcasting at 9 tonight here on Minnesota Public Radio. So you get a second chance to hear from Lynn Neary on some of the big issues and religion what it's like covering religion in as a member of the news media these days pretty dramatic change in emphasis in the media coverage these last few years for a long long time just to We didn't hear about many people who are assigned to the religion beat now. It's becoming more and more common. We will be rebroadcast in Her speech at 9 tonight. And then tomorrow both hours of our midday program will be devoted to the series on religion and everyday life. First of all, those of you who've been listening this past month and all we had a number of reports broadcast on the station about the various aspects of religion and we're going to be putting together some of the highlights from that coverage at over our 11 hour tomorrow. So in case you missed some of those stories will get an opportunity to hear them for the first time if you heard some of them and simply like to hear some of them again will be broadcasting any of those reports over the 11-hour tomorrow and then at noon it's off to the Minnesota meeting as part of our special series Martin Marty one of America's leading theologians will be in town and that he'll be talking about religion America. Yeah, and arguing that it's time that religion play a larger role in our public life. So that's coming up over the noon hour tomorrow. Hope you can tune in 11 to 1 tomorrow programming on NPR is supported by shandwick. Your company's reputation is an asset managing. It is the role of shandwick public relations. I'm Gary Acton. Thanks for tuning in today. I'm Lorna Benson on the next All Things Considered feminist Mysteries a Duluth, press called spinsters ink says it's reaching a whole new audience. It's all things considered weekdays at 3 on Minnesota Public Radio Kano W FM 91.1 You're listening to Minnesota Public Radio. We have a sunny sky and 53 degrees right now. It's kind of a deal FM 91.1 Minneapolis. And st. Paul should be sunny all afternoon. The temperature high could hit the upper sixties yet, another 10 degrees 15 degrees warmer clear tonight with a low in the upper 30s and then tomorrow high in near 70. From NPR news in Washington, I'm Ray Suarez in this is Talk of the Nation. A question from the taxpaying public about social security reform. I challenged Congress and Senate to say what what makes you think people are going to say this mother back here with three children is going to buy them tennis shoe. She's going to put money away for college essays. What will we do about people who have not saved adequately. Well in a private eyes system who will care for the survivors of workers who died long before much money is saved with a hybrid system be able to raise enough money to fund Universal benefits while allowing workers to make their own plans the plans run from Modest changes to major surgery Social Security Talk of the Nation after news.

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