Driving over to York this morning I was interested to listen to a piece on the abortion debate on BBC Radio 4. What was intriguing was not the (rather predictable) discussion, but rather the fact that it was the ‘Science Editor’ who commented on it. This betrays the assumption that we are dealing with a medical matter rather than an ethical one. (OK, the bill going through Parliament today would come under that brief, but it still begs the question.)

Maybe I was attuned to this because yesterday I was chairing the Sandford St Martin Trust in London. The Trust’s objective is to ‘promote excellence in religious broadcasting’ and it seeks to do this in a variety of ways, but principally by making prestigious annual awards.

At the Awards Ceremony at Lambeth Palace in May 2010 Roger Bolton made a bold case for the appointment by the BBC of a Religion Editor. He was not asking for an apologist or an evangelist, but an interpreter.

We live in a world in which, whether the commentariat like it or not, religion is (a) a powerful motivator of both individuals and communities, and (b) a social, political, economic and cultural phenomenon – that is, a reality that cannot be simply ignored (because “we don’t like it and wish it wasn’t there”) and cannot be neutered by uncritical assumptions about secular or ‘scientific’ neutrality.

The public discourse needs an interpreter to do for religion what Evan Davies did for economics.

The discussion on the radio this morning was good, but it would have been even better if there had been a brief interpretation or explanation of why different people see things the way they do, derived from the assumptions they assume. If you know what I mean.

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Location:Bishopthorpe, York