Wednesday, June 02, 2004

"Rebutting" Wicca

I did write to National Public Radio reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty to share my question about why only Wicca, of the various new religious movements covered in her series, deserved to have someone outside its faith community comment on what was wrong with it--in other words, evangelical Christians.

Here is her response. Actually, at least the first two paragraphs are from the "boilerplate" response that she used for everyone who wrote in to criticize her reporting, and apparently there were quite a few of those. You might say that I am somewhat appeased, but not entirely convinced. (The lack of capital W on Wicca is hers.)

Dear Chas,

Thanks for your note. I have received many emails complaining that I had interviewed Christians in the wiccan piece. I should say that, had I to do over again, I would not have put them in. I discussed the issue beforehand with my editor, and we decided to do so, because this is the context in which the two teenage girls in the story were living. Colorado Springs is the most "evangelical" of all cities... a point that came out in the final edit, now to my chagrin... and so these wiccan teens have to deal with this kind of peer response all the time. Both of them went to evangelical churches before they found wicca. My intent -- and clearly it was misconstrued -- was to show the context of their lives. But, we had to cut the piece by 40 seconds, we took out the nuance in that section.

Let me also address the Toronto Blessing piece (I did not do the one on Soka Gokkai). In the Pentecostal piece, we had a long section about how the Toronto Blessing is not of God, it's evil, it's mass hypnotism of the ilk you might find in Vegas. I felt the portrayal of wiccan teens was very sympathetic, and if anything, the Christian teens look hard and reactionary.

This was our thinking. I certainly never intended to offend, but to do the most nuanced job I could, given the constraints of a 12 minute piece. But this reminds me, once again, that NPR has the most thoughtful and informed listeners. I appreciate your writing me, Chas, and especially appreciate the kind tone of your note.




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