Barney Zwartz was profoundly instrumental in the formation of the Australian Media Engagement Project. Over a bottle of red wine, he coined the question, “Do you want me to be an excellent journalist, or a propagandist for your stories?” That question framed the character of our engagement with journalists.
Now as a commentator in the Herald Sun, he tacitly makes a play for ‘religion’ to have a voice in the ‘public space’. His article is responding to fellow commentator, Tom Elliott, who a week earlier wrote an article, titled “Believe it or not, religion is flawed”.
I congratulate the Herald Sun for creating a small opening for this huge cultural debate. If it unfolds, it should be welcomed by everybody.
Its overdue and vital, i.e. if Australian society is to become more unified, harmonious, fairer, with a greater sense of community well-being, and sustainable levels of shared prosperity.
However, I have two concerns about media coverage should this debate unfold.
First, journalists generally seem only superficially equipped to understand the nuances of religion, and the deep elements of truth that religious adherents possess, and enact within our society. Therefore, Australian journalism may not be able to effectively describe the reality of Australian society, which will be impacted by this huge cultural debate; if it unfolds. And, this is what their ethics say is a most responsible journalistic role.
Second, the voices of intelligent theologians have shown themselves inept with mainstream and social media communication. Yet, they need to effectively communicate:
- What their goal for Australian society is!
- How the process by which this goal will be achieved by Australians, actually works!
- An intelligible explanation of “God” (the structures, if you like) that hold all these things together.
Theologians who are committed to our Australian society need to do this in languages that thoughtful Australians understand, and to which we might respond.
Even so, let the debate begin! In earnest!