The naked Internet square

For the past several weeks, TBD.com, a new website covering Washington, D.C., has slowly been rolling itself out. The site is owned by Allbritton Communications, the creators of Polico.com and owners of several television stations. TBD.com is boasting that their “hyperlocal” coverage of the D.C. metro area will include cable station NewsChannel 8, ABC affiliate WJLA, and, most impressively, over 100 local blogging sites. As of this writing, there are 107 blogs on TBD.com.

Not a single one is about religion.

There are blogs about politics, blogs by health nuts, a dining blog (one of almost 20) called “Bitches who Brunch.” There are 20 sports blogs. There is a blog about a dog.

TBD.com claims it will cover Washington, D.C. The city is the home of the National Cathedral, The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (the largest Catholic church in North America), a huge Jewish population, Muslims, Baptists, a large a growing Hindu population, Nation of Islam members, New Agers, Buddhists and scores of other believers. Yet TBD doesn’t have the space for a single blog about a single religion.

It would be difficult to imagine a better example of the bias, or at least the general fecklessness, of modern journalists. Even when presented with the seemingly infinite space of the Internet, and with millions of dollars in seed money from a powerful communications company, the backers and editors of TBD.com don’t have the space or interest for anything religious. The editors, having spent their lives in the airtight echo chamber of journalism, are like those breeding dogs who have never been outside. They can’t even conceive of the idea of grass. Religion simply does not interest them.

I am deliberately using the term religion instead of God. Many religious critics of the media rightly recognize the secularism and Christophobia in the press, but I think there is a deeper and more subtle point. In his landmark book “The Naked Public Square,” Richard John Neuhaus explored how the American public square – our courts, government institutions and media – have been scrubbed of any argument based on religion. This has impoverished our live because many arguments that have a foundation in religion also have a basis in human reason and natural law. In other words, they can appeal to the non-religious as well as the religious. The Civil Rights movement appealed to human reason and natural law as much as to God.

I also think that the secularization of the media has also led to dull writing. When the inherent drama that comes with living a life where things like virtue, holiness, the soul and hell are vital is ruled out of bounds, you are often left with writing that either reads like a taxonomists’ report or is brittle with the kind of smug, ironic hipness that has infected the media and that goes stale very quickly. To echo the theologian David Bentley Hart, I prefer a madman atheist like Nietzsche over a snarky lightweight like Rachel Maddow; Nietzsche, after all, appreciated the enormity of Christianity. In a perverse way he respected the colossal nature of the thing. And rather than cower and snark, he went to battle. That’s why he will be read when Rachel Maddow is forgotten. If she hasn’t been already.