When I opened Wednesday’s New York Times and saw the weekly “Dining” section that’s the question that came to me. I’ll explain.
Lauren Green, religion correspondent for Fox News, was the speaker at a meeting of the Religion Communicators’ Council (RCC) I attended, here in New York City. These monthly meetings are informative and fun gatherings of New Yorkers from various faith groups in the City and beyond who work in communications, advertising, and public/media relations on behalf of their religious organizations.
It has been my privilege to attend these meetings for eight years as a representative of the Christian Science Committee on Publication. When I started, there were two Christian Scientists at most meetings — the individual who represented all of New York state and me, as an Assistant. At recent meetings, it’s not unusual for there to be seven or eight Christian Scientists in a meeting of 35 0r 40 in total. Other attendees are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, as well as representatives of the United Methodist Church, the National Council of Churches, the church of Scientology, the Mormon church, and others. These opportunities to meet and get to know our counterparts from other religions are invaluable in building fellowship and correcting misconceptions about Christian Science. Each month we gather, break bread together, and listen to a speaker from the media reporting on religion and faith in New York.
Every speaker has a unique approach to religion reporting; many share their insights about trends they observe. They are all gracious and generous in entertaining our questions and advising us regarding our day-to-day efforts to interact with the media.
Which brings me to Ms. Green’s talk. She began by describing her response when someone asks how she defines her “beat,”religion reporting.
“I say to the person, ‘What gets you up in the morning? What makes you want to get out of bed and get going? Well, that’s your god.’ ”
Much of today’s reporting on religion is either wildly divisive or proclaims the crumbling of religious institutions and the watering down of beliefs into a more palatable feel-good faith. It reports a generation that describes itself as “spiritual but not religious.” In that context, I love Ms. Green’s simple, startling way of thinking about what we are worshipping. Her point seems to be that whether or not we ever set foot in a church or attend any organized gathering, we each worship something — so it’s worthwhile to identify what that is. Is it work? money? food?
The “Dining” section of The New York Times highlights the degree to which food has become a god for many people — a whole section of the paper is devoted to it. The Food Network on TV focuses on it, and celebrity chefs abound. Best-selling author Geneen Roth has carved out a successful career helping women free themselves from the slavery of worshipping food. Her most recent book, #1 on the NY Times Best Seller list for 20 weeks and counting, is entitled, “Women, Food and God.”
I feel privileged to be an RCC member, because the meetings exemplify the ability of religions to coexist peacefully and respectfully. We learn and grow by uncovering our differences and discovering our similarities.
One example of commonality is a belief in the 10 commandments, shared specifically by those of Jewish and Christian faiths — including Christian Scientists. According to wikipedia, ” They are recognized as a moral foundation in Judaism and Christianity, and their substance also figures in Islam.” The first commandment declares, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Every religion strives to define God. Christian Science defines God as “The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy)
Perhaps we can all benefit by taking a moment to answer Ms. Green’s question: “What gets you up in the morning?” Whether religious or not, what am I worshipping? What’s my god?