Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the religion correspondent for NPR, reporting regularly on the intersection of faith and politics, law, and science and culture. Her New York Times best-selling book, Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality, was published in May 2009. She has received the American Women in Radio and Television Award, the Headliners Award and the Religion Newswriters Association Award for radio reporting. Barbara Hagerty, who is now in her early 50s, graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in 1981 with a degree in economics. She also received a masters in legal studies from Yale Law School in the 1990s. Her first job in journalism was copyediting at The Christian Science Monitor. From there she covered a number of major stories, both overseas and in the U.S. She joined National Public Radio in 1995. In 2003 she married and moved to the religion side of NPR.
On her personal website she describes how she moved away from her Christian Science background, which makes the title of her book all the more intriguing to me. She then began a growing search to understand faith in a whole new context. I have not been able to determine if she connected with a particular faith, Christian or other, but she is clearly a keen observer of the place that faith has in our personal lives and culture. A search of her name will reveal that she is “marked” by both atheists and fundamentalists as an unreliable source. In fact, one atheist site called her a leading voice from the “far right,” a strange response if ever there was one. My interest in her reporting and writing is not in these debates about her work but rather in her broad insights into religion and culture in modern America. I find her work insightful, stimulating and, at times, even brilliant. She is one of those public journalists that I would gladly sit down with at Starbucks for a long visit over my Skinny Vanilla Latte, my beverage of choice because it fits into my healthy lifestyle choices.
In her best-selling book Barb writes the following statement about belief in God in an age when all the fierce critics say such belief is dying out because of all the efforts of the radical new atheists and (sadly) the bumbling of religious people on the far left and far right. Says Hagerty:
Belief in God has not gone away, no matter how secular society has become or how much effort reductionist science has exerted to banish Him. God has not gone away because people keep encountering Him, in unexplainable, intensely spiritual moments (Fingerprints of God).
No matter what you might think about faith in our society Barb has it right here. There is a growing number of millennials who have dropped out of religion, in numbers almost unrivaled in the history of the United States except around the time of 1800. Yet faith has not gone away. People believe, or want to believe, in God and still believe in numbers that are impressive. The question for Christians who are committed to the mission of Jesus is not: “Has America lost faith in God?” The pressing question is rather: “What God do they actually believe in and how will we introduce them to the love of the triune God in the person of Jesus during a time in our history when the church has increasingly lost touch with their everyday lives?”