Spirituality meets the news

Published February 1, 1999

Some people think if Jesus were alive today, he would want to be on television.

A new program on CBC News-world and Vision TV would definitely want Him as a guest, should he be available for an appearance.

On Jan. 17, Newsworld and Vision teamed up to launch Moral Divide, a show that reflects the growing role of spirituality, religion and moral issues in our society.

Hosted by Anne Petrie from the Newsworld studio in Calgary, the show will air on CBC twice on Sundays and on Wednesday evenings on Vision.

Ms. Petrie, a 10-year veteran of Newsworld who already hosts two other programs, said she’s looking forward to hosting a show that deals with the thorny issues of religion and spirituality because “I think anybody with a brain is interested in this kind of stuff,” she said in an interview.

“It’s virtually unheard of for two networks to get together to do a show,” she said, but she’s pleased because “Vision does such good work.”

The show will explore “new ways to talk about things. People are already doing that in their ordinary lives and we in the media haven’t caught on to that,” she said.

The goal is to go beyond the political and financial analysis of news events that we’re already getting ad nauseam from the media and to probe moral questions and the religious or spiritual overtones of news events and issues.

Ms. Petrie said she’s “really looking forward” to hosting the show because when it comes to religion and spirituality, the “mainstream media have missed the boat.”

She’s also feeling anxious about the challenge because “I think there’s a lot of interest in something like this but because people have very strong opinions, everyone has an idea of how you should do a show about religion and spirituality.”

“I want to get it right and there’s no road map for this.”

In the premier episode of the program, Bill Clinton’s Methodist pastor was interviewed. The story explored the responsibility of a religious leader who counsels the most powerful man in the world. It also examined the historical link between church and state.

Ms. Petrie said Mr. Clinton’s sexual escapades have also raised questions about morality and why sex has seemingly become synonymous with morals.

“Historically, morality has a much broader implication than that,” she said.

The show will also tackle the controversial issue of Hepatitis C – a disease that infected thousands of Canadians after they received tainted blood.

Ms. Petrie says the mainstream media has already explored the medical and legal aspects of the story. What the media hasn’t addressed is “our moral responsibility to each other. I’m not saying we can decide that but we can talk about it,” she said.

Another topical issue the show will cover is the financial trouble of hog farmers across Canada. The show will discuss whether we have a collective responsibility to maintain farm and rural life.

She thinks viewers will be attracted to the show because in the past 20 or 30 years, many people have strayed from examining faith issues.

“We still have to deal with the how’s and why’s – the big questions about our world,” she said.

“I think there’s a need to have a new vocabulary other than the secular.”

As well as hosting her programs on Newsworld, Ms. Petrie has also written several books, including her recent best-seller, Gone to an Aunt’s, Remembering Canada’s Homes for Unwed Mothers. Moral Divide airs at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on CBC Newsworld on Sundays and on Wednesdays on Vision TV at 10 p.m



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