The well known British author and newspaper columnist A. N. Wilson once again made the headlines in 2009, when he made a public turn from being a high profile critic to becoming a committed Christian.
Recently, I came across the following thought-provoking and rather controversial quote from A. N. Wilson in famous evangelist and apologist Ravi Zacharias’ excellent new book Has Christianity failed you? (Zondervan 2010) [p.106-107]:
“Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity?
Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters, and media generally are not merely nonreligious, they are positively anti.
To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.
This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude toward Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.
It also lends weight to the fervor of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion…
My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, pehaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.
Rather than being cowed by them, I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis, foulmouthed, self-satisfed TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architechts of so much television output.
But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known – not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.”
It seems to me that these radical thoughts from A. N. Wilsom raise some key issues for all of us.
We need to realize that secularism functions as an underlying and unquestioned premise of much Western news and entertainment media. This may be secularism in a strong anti-Christian version (as in new atheism) or in a weaker and less confrontational version (as in the “God is irrelevant-attitude”). Such secular attitudes constitute influential plausibility structures within major (Western) media. This is one of the reasons why media awareness must be a key missiological concern for us at Cape Town 2010.
We certainly need to question such secular attitudes, both philosophically and practically. Philosopher Alvin Plantingas (and many others!) has argued forcefully that secularism has no right to claim such a privileged position. And in practice, we need to ask critical worldview questions both to the news media and to the entertainment media.
A. N. Wilson’s words, of course, also illustrates the validity and value of Christian media presence.
We also need to ask to what extent news media and entertainment media in the Global South gradually are being shaped by the secularism of the Western media
Finally, we need to reflect on the explanatory power of the Resurrection of Jesus, over against alternative secular and religious worldviews. This apologetic claim should not come as a surprise to a Christian believer, but it is easy to underestimate the potential life-transforming nature of this biblical message.
(This blog post is a revised version of http://larsdahle.no/are-major-news-and-entertainment-media-agents-of-secularization/.)