Religion in the Media
A lot of talk about religion in the media focuses on contentious issues that are likely to grab peoples attention. This may be gender, sexuality or allegiance issues. Many stories about celebrity religious conversions can grab headlines as the media obsesses over celebrity lifestyles. All in all, religion in the media can be out of touch but hugely relevant and interesting.
The recent media coverage regarding the vote denying women the chance to become bishops in the Church of England seemed to be viewed by many in the media to signify that the Church was out of touch. Couple this with stories about certain members of Christianity publicly condemning homosexuality and suddenly the Church seems to hold little relevance to modern life. However, there was also much media coverage about allowing women to become Priests and allowing homosexual men to become Bishops. All of these emotive subjects seem to have become the issues by which the media presents religious institutions. The Church itself appears to be divided on issues of gender and sexuality and that, too, is of interest to the media. One result of this bickering and seemingly draconian attitudes towards certain sections of society held by some members of the Church, has led the media to ask about the relevance of the Church in today’s society and politics. British Muslims are also facing a tough time from some quarters of the press who seem to think that Islam is incompatible with British values.
Amir Khan, a proud British Muslims fight with Salita was labelled as the ‘battle of faiths’. Religion being an easily divisive topic can also sometimes be used by the media to make a story more contentious. In 2009 British Muslim Amir Khan had a boxing match against the Orthodox Jewish American David Salita. Many members of the press billed this fight as the ‘”Battle of Faiths“. This backfired somewhat as the two fighters were then almost forced to show public respect to one another’s religious beliefs and refute the media insinuations, instead of hyping up the fight themselves with good old fashioned trash talking.
Religion gains much more superficial news coverage regarding celebrities religious conversions. Madonna’s re-awakening in the Kabala, Julia Roberts becoming a Hindu and Liam Neeson consideration on whether or not to become a Muslim all gained much media following. The focus being on the lifestyle of celebrities rather than the religions, you can even read about the top 10 celebrity religious conversions. Some outlets have claimed that celebrity is the new religion and perhaps the line is further blurred by this list of celebrities following different religions, among the list of celebrities is Buddha.
The contentious issues around religion portrayed in the media, may make it sometimes seem out of touch. While the stories about celebrity conversions show that religion can sometimes be a very superficial topic in the press. However the debates about gender and LGBT rights could not be more culturally relevant albeit seemingly outdated in religion compared to the rest of society. Celebrity stories also show just how much we still believe religion can have an impact on an individuals life.
By Ian Werrett