On Friday night's Special Report with Bret Baier (Chris Wallace anchoring), correspondent Anita Vogel had a nice little story about some successful youth outreach programs by the United Methodist Church and the U.S. Catholic Church. The gist of the story was that there was enough spiritual hunger among increasingly unchurched youth, that a little effort could go a long way.
But, of course, one always looks for the contrary voice. This time, the "expert" unwittingly echoed a source she would likely not want to be associated with.
There is no video available for this report, so here is the complete transcript.
ANITA VOGEL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Most Americans believe in something, but a growing number are reluctant to identify with any specific faith according to the Pew Center for Religion and Politics. Their research indicates the only growing segment among religious Americans are those who self identified and unaffiliated with any denomination.
DIANE WINSTON, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: People are opting out because they feel like they're giving more than they are getting in a lot of mainstream churches.
OLIVIA BARHAM, NON-DENOMINATIONAL WRITER: It's limiting when you define yourself as a certain thing, whether that's Buddhist, Christian.
VOGEL: Organized faiths say they're aware of the trend and are taking action. The United Methodist church has launched a $20 million campaign to get people back into the pews, including slick television ads and volunteers handing out iTunes gift cards in Times Square. The Roman Catholics have a similar effort aimed at bringing young people into the church, and the results, they say, have been nothing short of miraculous.
TOM PETERSON, CATHOLICSCOMEHOME.ORG: People are coming back by the droves, in many cases for less than $2 a soul.
PETER HOLON, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: We're asking people to rethink their understanding of church and why they participate in church. And we are also offering many different ways to become involved.
VOGEL (on camera): But experts say this kind of outreach carries a risk as glitzy marketing might offend the devout, and $20 million could do a lot of good work.
"Experts say?" The oldest dodge in the book. Vogel shows her prejudice in the assumption that "the devout" would hate anything that appears modern or new. The only on-air contrary voice is that of Diane Winston, who holds the "Knight Chair in Meida and Religion" at USC's Annenberg School of Communication, the media's favorite source on the media
However, one would hope that Ms. Winston had no idea whose sentiments she echoed in her somewhat cynical commentary which ended the segment.
DIANE WINSTON, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: You could feed a lot of hungry mouths and do a lot of good with that. On the other hand, if you're looking for an investment, if that's going to bring in a million new converts or a million new people, that's very helpful.
JOHN 12: 4-6 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages. He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Jesus himself rebuked this familiar evasion, which is still used today whenever someone—particularly liberals—do not like the way someone or some group is spending their own money.
"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. " It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."
Similarly, these denominations are spending their funds in the presumably Christ-honoring task of outreach, a primary purpose given to the Church by Jesus in the Great Commission. While charitable acts can be part of this — and often are — the Church is to have more eternal goals in mind.
Of course, considering the worldwide reach of Catholic Charities, from adoption agencies to hospital networks, it's particularly galling — but telling — that Ms Winston would choose this particular, and very old, line of argument.