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"The ephemeral meets the eternal: the work of a religious journalist in modern Europe"

Dates:
  • Fri 11 May 2012 11.00 - 13.00
  Add to Calendar 2012-05-11 11:00 2012-05-11 13:00 Europe/Paris "The ephemeral meets the eternal: the work of a religious journalist in modern Europe"

Ten or 15 years ago, it seemed self-evident that Europe was growing more secular, and the
European media reflected that trend, treating religion as a marginal and diminishing
force in society. In the media at least, this situation has changed dramatically. In 2004,
I was appointed the religion correspondent at the Economist - the first time that such
an essentially secular newspaper has appointed a journalist to this role. In every other
outlet in the Anglo-Saxon media, the coverage of religion is considered an important
function, although there is great confusion about how to approach the subject. Across
Europe, the coverage of topics ranging from Vatican sex-abuse scandals to the future of
religious education remains an important concern for the mainstream media. Religion
itself may not be reviving, but interest in religion - albeit not always sympathetic
interest - remains relatively strong and in some ways growing.

There is no mystery about the main reasons for this change. It is not because Christianity,
the historic faith of Europe's majority, has undergone some spectacular revival.
On the contrary, Christianity has continued to decline - while still flourishing in
certain well-defined pockets. The media have become re-engaged with theology because
of the emergence in Europe of Islam as a powerful and unapologetic voice in the
public square - raising, as it seems to non-Muslims, an unlikely but confidently-asserted
mixture of demands. They range from cultural issues (from halal meat to
segregated swimming to Muslim cemeteries) to foreign-policy questions to
concerns over the use of public space.

That does not mean that the work of religious correspondents is exclusively concerned
with analyzing issues of Muslim theology, past and present. But the rise of Islam has
implications for the way that Christianity is covered. As Europe faces a sort of
"culture war" between Islam and secular humanism (touching on issues ranging
from gay rights, gender equality, the purpose of nature of education), there is an
unresolved dilemma for organized Christianity in Europe. Will it side with liberal humanism,
presenting itself as an ally in the struggle against a resurgence of old-fashioned
theocracy? Or will it side, at a tactical level, with Islam - arguing that public policy
must take more account of the social reality of religion, Christian and otherwise?
The rise of Islam poses both dangers and opportunities for European Christianity.

Most of the stories covered by religion correspondents like myself relate in one way
or another to the triangle created by Islam, secular humanism and a weak and
ambivalent Christianity.

Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana DD/MM/YYYY
  Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

Ten or 15 years ago, it seemed self-evident that Europe was growing more secular, and the
European media reflected that trend, treating religion as a marginal and diminishing
force in society. In the media at least, this situation has changed dramatically. In 2004,
I was appointed the religion correspondent at the Economist - the first time that such
an essentially secular newspaper has appointed a journalist to this role. In every other
outlet in the Anglo-Saxon media, the coverage of religion is considered an important
function, although there is great confusion about how to approach the subject. Across
Europe, the coverage of topics ranging from Vatican sex-abuse scandals to the future of
religious education remains an important concern for the mainstream media. Religion
itself may not be reviving, but interest in religion - albeit not always sympathetic
interest - remains relatively strong and in some ways growing.

There is no mystery about the main reasons for this change. It is not because Christianity,
the historic faith of Europe's majority, has undergone some spectacular revival.
On the contrary, Christianity has continued to decline - while still flourishing in
certain well-defined pockets. The media have become re-engaged with theology because
of the emergence in Europe of Islam as a powerful and unapologetic voice in the
public square - raising, as it seems to non-Muslims, an unlikely but confidently-asserted
mixture of demands. They range from cultural issues (from halal meat to
segregated swimming to Muslim cemeteries) to foreign-policy questions to
concerns over the use of public space.

That does not mean that the work of religious correspondents is exclusively concerned
with analyzing issues of Muslim theology, past and present. But the rise of Islam has
implications for the way that Christianity is covered. As Europe faces a sort of
"culture war" between Islam and secular humanism (touching on issues ranging
from gay rights, gender equality, the purpose of nature of education), there is an
unresolved dilemma for organized Christianity in Europe. Will it side with liberal humanism,
presenting itself as an ally in the struggle against a resurgence of old-fashioned
theocracy? Or will it side, at a tactical level, with Islam - arguing that public policy
must take more account of the social reality of religion, Christian and otherwise?
The rise of Islam poses both dangers and opportunities for European Christianity.

Most of the stories covered by religion correspondents like myself relate in one way
or another to the triangle created by Islam, secular humanism and a weak and
ambivalent Christianity.


Location:
Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

Affiliation:
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

Type:
Lecture

Contact:
Claudia Fanti - Send a mail

Speaker:
Bruce Clark (The Economist)
 
 

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