While we have all been educated to the fact that this country was primarily founded on the need and desire to have the freedom to practice religion and worship God freely, the fact remains that for decades the media has all but turned their backs on the smaller religious groups in this nation. The attention you see them get is only initiated by violence which results from a groups refusal to cooperate with the laws of the land. Positive words or attempts to become educated regarding the many unknown religious groups a few and extremely far between.
Focusing on truth, from a Constitutional standpoint, magazines, newspapers, and television media are to deliver current events on an objective, opinion-free basis. The simple act of omitting the smaller spiritual groups seems to speak volumes regarding the “silent” portion of journalism ethics. Scientists who actually study New Religious Movements, or NRMs, and their dynamics, have learned an abundance of surprising information, which will be the topic of the following discussion.
- Casting a Negative Light on New Religious Movements
In order to provide you with a clear understanding of the profound influence of the media on NRM groups, you must realize that much of the information reported is grossly exaggerated regarding their lifestyles and doctrines. The media has an astounding power that permits them boundless influence over their captive audience: you and I. This enables them to breed emotion, which in turn sways opinion. Granted, there have been religious groups, or what are referred to as sects or cults, which have initiated violence, but the major percentage of practicing NRMs are not only unknown, but live lives which reflect peace and tranquility.
However, the mass reporting and attention given to the violence of the groups we are familiar with, such as the sect controlled by David Koresh in Waco, Texas or the Jim Jones group, has succeeded only in breeding prejudice and fear toward NRMs in general, as there is virtually no media reporting which focuses on the groups which live harmoniously. The press is drawn to antagonism; conflict means ratings and sales. All of these factors combined result in the perspectives regarding free religion which we are exposed to in our society, a society which may practice free religion as a right.
Here is an example to give you a handle on what we mean: a group called Nexus conducted a study of 250 publications regarding new religious movements. When referring to any group being studied, the word “cult was used in over 190,000 media pieces and the word “sect” was used nearly 75,000 times. In contrast, the proper term, “new religion” was used a mere 4100 times by the media.
Words are a tool which can virtually influence anyone in any direction desired, provided they are chosen wisely, used eloquently, and delivered in a timely fashion. This is at the heart of what has taken place in this area of concern. By very nature human beings are prone to be most impressed upon by the negative. In fact, studies have shown it takes 5 times the reverse programming to under one negative thought our impression. This is a fact the media is aware of as well.
Because of the stigma which surrounds new religious movements of any kind, those who are members of well known denominations are received with resistance as well. It seems that the negative influence which has been exercised by those with the power are slowly but surely breeding fear in areas of spirituality that this country was founded on. The tentacles of the beast are much farther reaching than anyone can possibly fathom, and the results could be catastrophic for this nation and its people.
- The Downward Spiral
This type of public manipulation easily perpetuates through word of mouth and further media efforts. With so much prejudice being built, we know their are statistics and numbers based on religious studies as well as studies involving the smaller new religious movements. If the documentation is sat on, the information is never released, and the public is never educated to the truth.
In the “Bible belt” region of the United States, it is still common for church groups, large or small, to make announcements or be interviewed on their local news. National pieces, however, are touted by spending big dollars, and the budget wins in the end. So what is the solution to the dilemma involving New Religious Movement and the reality of it?
- In a Nutshell
We not only live in a country that claims freedom of religion as a right, we also live in a country that provides us with education. The fact is that half the truth regarding the smaller religious groups is being hidden from us for a broad array of reasons, none of which is conducive to the truth being told. Research the New Religious Movements in the United States. Educate yourself regarding their doctrines and practices. Form an opinion based on the education you have provided for yourself and others, and take back some of the power the media has stolen from you; take back your power to consciously form your own opinion and choose for yourself.