This morning the conference group in Rome went to visit the SAT2000 media centre. Set up by the Bishops Conference (and paid and controlled by them), this company makes, broadcasts and distributes television and radio programmes across Italy. Now, this sort of outfit would normally get my hackles rising: paid for and controlled (in terms of agenda and direction) by the Roman Catholic Church does not sound to me like a recipe for independence and rational analysis of the world. But, that prejudice needs to be examined.
We questioned the controllers and presenters in some detail and they were open, frank and helpful in their engagement with us. The big question for British communications people is around how a religious establishment with a particular profile can have the credibility to speak to a sceptical world that doesn’t share its beliefs or assumptions. There is a common view that it is surely impossible – that only secularist assumptions or convictions about the world can be credible or independent (or even rational). This, of course, is twaddle of the first order.
SAT2000 is confident about the worldview it assumes and represents: that God is there; that God has created us to love and be loved; that deviation from the Creator’s way leads only to problems; and that those who hold to a Christian world view have something not only unique (in a descriptive sense) but also vital for all human beings. They then look at the world through this lens. This leads them to produce analyses of news, of news output across the media, of moral/ethical issues as they impact on public policy, and of cultural phenomena such as theatre, film, etc. In other words, no sphere of life is excluded from such a perspective and a religious media is not (stupidly) condemned only to address directly ‘religious’ affairs.
This is because the business of any church is not primarily the church, but the world the church is called to serve. I think it was the great german preacher and theologian, Helmut Thielicke, who asked God to preserve the church and the world from ‘stupid Christian philistines’. The church’s agenda is the world in which we live and which we shape together.
So, SAT2000 produces radio and TV programmes that open up discussion and debate, bringing a unique critique to the world’s business and inviting audiences to question the assumptions they themselves bring to the analyses of the world that shape their thinking and critique.
This is good. I might not agree with the Roman Catholic Church’s line on particular issues and I might not like the line propagated in some programming. But I like even less the aggressively arrogant secularist assumptions that a Christian (or, rather, theistic) world view is invalid whereas one that starts from a different (but not argued for) place is – rather conveniently – the only legitimate one. Surely we should be big enough to let people bring their perspectives to the table and then let them stand or fall in the market place of public scrutiny? To fear this is to doubt that our view will stand if scrutinised closely (described by someone today as ‘given a rigorous scrute’).
But I also discovered today that the word for a ‘remote control’ in Italian is ‘telecomando’. And I thought this sounded like someone who attacks people with a telly. Which reminded me of Richard Dawkins and the wonderful condensed parody of his new book The Greatest Show on Earth. A weird link, I know; but not half as weird as some of the links Dawkins makes.
Anyway, I had time to think about this while running round central Rome looking for Jane Bower’s (Director of Communications for Wakefield Diocese) lost passport. She’d left it in the church we were in earlier. It was still there. We were pleased. Sweaty, but pleased. Here she is: