PUSHING BUSH ON THE CLIMATE
A cardinal says Pope Benedict XVI should press President Bush on the risks of climate change when they meet in June. Wonder where global warming would be on the pope's list of most important issues to talk about with Bush. Fairly high, I'm guessing, but below the war in Iraq, Darfur and perhaps some other matters. Where would you put it?
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IS OUR MORAL SKY FALLING?
I'm often skeptical of polls and surveys, even though I find them interesting.
So I'm both skeptical of but intrigued by a new survey from the Culture and Media Institute. One reason I'm skeptical is the sweeping language the institute uses in its mission statement. It wants to "preserve and help restore America's culture, character, traditional values and morals against the assault of the liberal media elite. . ."
Yes, well, just what are America's culture, character, traditional values and morals? Ask a million people, get a million answers. And who are the liberal media elite? As I've said here time and time again, such labels hide much more than they reveal. Labels like "liberal media elite" are used not to convey information but, rather, a certain tone in a certain code.
That said, I am not arguing that our culture isn't more coarse today, more crude, less pristine than it ever has been. Just watch a little prime time TV, go to the movies, listen to music on the radio. A lot of it is simply disheartening. We all know junk flies through the cultural air that would have knocked my sweet grandparents dead on the spot.
At any rate, this new survey says that 74 percent of adult Americas agree that moral values in the U.S. are weaker than they were two decades ago. There are lots of other findings that you can ponder at the site to which I've linked you (and pay attention to the odd "Orthodox," "Progressive" and "Independent" divisions the survey makes among respondents).
But here's the study's conslusion: "America no longer enjoys cultural consensus on God, religion and what constitutes right and wrong." And Americans "have clearly identified the media as primary culprits in the nation's moral decline." (Media, of course, means way, way more than just newspapers or TV.)
So what do you make of all this? Are we a less moral nation than when Americans could and did legally could own slaves? Are we a less moral nation than we were when women couldn't even vote? Or when our schools were legally segregated? Does the sludge that passes for pop culture desensitize us to the values religion calls us to?
Finally, should I have ignored this survey and, instead, read People magazine or some similarly vacuous publication?
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow is about the 400-year history of the Episcopal church in the U.S.)
P.S.: For a Baptist Press story about a chaplain who ministers to the Blue Angels, grieving the loss of one of their pilots in a recent accident, click here.