Roger Rosenblatt, a gifted wordsmith and reporter with the NewsHour program on PBS, recently filed an essay in which he expressed honest surprise at the levels of Christian belief he has observed around the country. He begins: “As a secular Jew, a distinction in Judaism as unspectacular as that of a lapsed Catholic, it fascinates me how religious the world seems to be growing, or if not growing, at least showing a religious face more boldly.”
He noted the public attention to the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, as well as the rise of Islam and more assertive forms of Judaism. Tracing recent observations, he reflects: “Were I an atheist or agnostic, I might feel isolated or even imperiled by such a turn of events. My faith being real but inquiring, I’m more curious than anything else. History often displays periods of overheated religious activity as heading towards wars and mass murder. Leaving those dire possibilities in abeyance, I simply don’t know what to make of the phenomenon. It’s not that one can’t come up with reasons. All these manifestations are arising at a time of insistent individualism shown in everything from the iPod and bloggers to efforts towards the perfectibility of one’s appearance, one’s health, one’s sex life. So religion may offer the countervailing force of community and of dependence on a higher perfection.”
This is an honest statement, indicating that this secular journalist simply doesn’t “know what to make of this phenomenon.” In his conclusion, he wonders if secularism might be in eclipse. “Religion may be on the rise because of secularists like myself, who, it may be thought, have been in charge of public life too long. We certainly don’t feel in charge these days.” Honest reflections from an honest man should always be welcomed. From the perspective of a believing Christian, the prevailing picture can look very different. In any event, it is helpful to know how Roger Rosenblatt sees it.
Roger Rosenblatt, Essay: The Rising, PBS NewsHour, June 13, 2005. The segment is also available in RealAudio form at this site.