By M. S. Mason, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
Good, even great things happen every day in individual lives, in religious communities, and in ecumenical and interfaith encounters. Most of those stories never make it into the evening news. Then, too, issues facing people of one faith may sometimes be difficult for those of another to understand.
A news magazine hosted by television journalist Bob Abernethy, "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly," intends to help change all that, taking a good, long look at religious issues as they affect our lives and communities today. A production of WNET in New York, the program premiered Sept. 5 and airs Saturday or Sunday on PBS (check local listings).
Mr. Abernethy (see story, right) lets us know off the bat that this is a news show - there will be no preaching. He has the kind of genial, genteel intelligence that inspires confidence. His reasonable tone assures viewers that his handling of the subjects he investigates will be balanced, respectful, and generous. He is not out to promote any one's religious agenda. The show will concentrate on the issues, exploring a wide variety of belief systems, and will not attempt to tell listeners what to think. The first two programs' biggest strengths were the variety of issues Abernethy and team delved into, and their canny ability to show why religion matters so much to so many. In the first show, Mother Teresa's legacy was tastefully handled with affection. The persecution of Christians around the world, though not as fully explained as one might wish, opened up a can of worms the public seldom sees - even showing the reluctance of some Christians to face what is happening head on. Solutions were suggested, experts consulted, and the changing tide of opinion discussed. But the sentiment that remained is that speaking out against human rights violations (whether in China, the Sudan, or elsewhere) is the only thing that will help protect Christians who are being persecuted. In another segment, Abernethy visited the new gospel music for the 1990s - hearing from those young people who respond to its message, as well as from adults who do and don't approve of its style. Appreciation for Diana One of the most touching sequences dealt with the public outpouring of grief over the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, focusing on what people loved about her and how various religious faiths would both answer questions about death and comfort grieving relatives of the princess. …