It’s no secret that Bill Maher, the host of the HBO show "Real Time with Bill Maher," loathes religion. He came under fire earlier this year for slandering Pope Benedict XVI.
On Tuesday night, CNN’s Larry King gave Maher another chance to smack Christianity, which Maher called “detrimental” and “the ultimate hustle.”
Maher was on "Larry King Live" to promote his latest vehicle, the film "Religulous," which is due to open October 3. "Religulous," which reportedly takes aim at all religions, was supposed to be released around Easter of this year. It had been called a documentary previously but Maher is now selling it as a comedy. Larry King opened his interview with Maher by praising the movie but noted that it will offend people.
"Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden interviewed Pastor Rick Warren on Monday about the presidential forum he held with Senators Barack Obama and John McCain and pestered him to just admit that he's a Republican. At one point, she goaded, "You know, there are some people who feel that this is kind of a sham operation. That really, we know you, as an evangelical, are a Republican, a John McCain supporter."
Warren responded by asserting he's a registered independent, but the ABC correspondent kept trying to pin the pastor and author down as a GOP supporter. Speaking of Warren's parishioners and his own preference, she queried, "But do you feel like at some point, Rick, you owe the people who look to you for guidance more than that? I mean at some point before this election are you going to get up--" After Warren interrupted and replied that he wouldn't be telling anyone who to vote for, McFadden followed-up: "So if someone were to come to you and say, you know what, forget character, I'm going to vote for the guy who is opposed to abortion, would you say they need to go back and think a little harder?"
Cynthia McFadden didn't exactly say John McCain had no character, but she certainly implied it. In an interview with Pastor Rick Warren on ABC's "Nightline," McFadden was trying to get Warren to indicate if he would counsel his flock on who to vote for, and what he would say to people who say "forget character," pick the pro-lifer.
The feature on Warren came after the pastor's Civic Forum on the Presidency held over the weekend at his 22,000-member church in southern California. McFadden asked Warren if he "owed" it to "people who look up to you" to tell them for whom he was voting .
As NewsBuster Brad Wilmouth has noted, over the weekend NBC News political director Chuck Todd, previewing the Saddleback forum, suggested it represented an opportunity for Obama to forestall "personal hatred" of him by evangelical Christians.
Todd has now contacted NewsBusters to express regret over his choice of words.
Todd's initial remark was made to Andrea Mitchell during a pre-game special edition of Hardball on Saturday:
CHUCK TODD: It's just not, it's just not his comfort zone. So it's a huge opportunity for Obama tonight to at least not be hated by the evange-, look, these folks are not going to ever support him. They know what kind of judges he's going to appoint. It's going to be judges that evangelicals aren't going to be happy with. But they're not going to, if they don't have a personal hatred of him, then that's a good thing for Obama.
On a special Saturday edition of MSNBC's Hardball, while previewing that night's presidential candidates forum hosted by evangelical leader Rick Warren, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd seemed to suggest that it is not out of the ordinary for evangelical Christians to feel "personal hatred" toward a Democratic presidential candidate. Todd, who is normally relatively balanced in his coverage of politics, once even admitting to being a "fan" of the MRC despite a history of working for liberal Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, made the uncharacteristic remarks as he contended that the forum would give Barack Obama an opportunity to keep evangelicals from feeling "personal hatred" toward him. Todd: "It's a huge opportunity for Obama tonight to at least not be hated by the evange-, look, these folks are not going to ever support him. They know what kind of judges he's going to appoint. It's going to be judges that evangelicals aren't going to be happy with. But they're not going to, if they don't have a personal hatred of him, then that's a good thing for Obama."
Update: NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein reports that Todd has since apologized for his comments.
[Update, 2:25 pm EDT, 8/15: A MRC CyberAlert item from March 18, 1997 reported that Waldman had worked in the Clinton administration promoting AmeriCorps before joining U.S. News and World Report.]
Correspondent David Mattingly’s report on Friday’s Newsroom program on CNN promoted the accusation by Barack Obama supporters that a popular McCain Internet advertisement, known as "The One" ad, drops hints that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee might be the Antichrist. Mattingly used two sound bites from proponents of this idea, and none from people who are opposed to it.
Mattingly introduced his report with two clips from the ad and stated, "When you listen to this John McCain ad, it might sound like Barack Obama has a messiah complex." He then explained that while "[t]he McCain campaign says it's all in good fun... not everyone's laughing. Some Democrats say the ad, which appears only on the Internet, is infused with hidden messages to evangelical Christians -- messages that Barack Obama isn't the messiah at all." [audio clip available here]
The report’s first sound bite featured Steven Waldman, the CEO of Beliefnet.com, who made the following accusation about the ad: "It reenforces things that they've been hearing around the Internet, that maybe Barack Obama is, in fact, the Antichrist." Before Waldman co-founded Beliefnet, he was the National Editor for U.S. News and World Report and was a national correspondent for Newsweek magazine. He is also an occasional blogger on The Huffington Post.
Two days ago I excerpted from an open letter to Rick Warren over at Red State calling on the California pastor to post questions to the presidential candidates, particularly Barack Obama, on pro-life concerns. Today, Red State editor Erick Erickson has given up any hope that tomorrow's "Compassionate Leader" forum will be anything but a CNN-televised sop to the Left (emphasis Erickson's):
Warren says he is going to get "Faith in Public Life" to help him come up with the questions to ask McCain and Obama. Who is "Faith in Public Life"? From the link:
Jim Wallis is America's foremost spokesman for the Religious Left. Bob Edgar, of course, is the former head of the National Council of Churches. Catherine Pinkerton sits on the Obama campaign's Catholic Advisory Council. Anybody see a pattern here? Just to drive the point home, consider the boards of directors and advisors of the FLP, which include such luminaries as:
Time magazine writer Amy Sullivan, the former Tom Daschle aide, has been one of the media elite’s most enthusiastic evangelists for the implausible idea of Democrats closing the "God gap" among Christians (including a book titled The Party Faithful). This leads to all kinds of aerobically biased writing. But the latest article was truly ridiculous, headlined "An Antichrist Obama in McCain Ad?"
She began: "It's not easy to make the infamous Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential campaign seem benign. But suggesting that Barack Obama is the Antichrist might just do it." The first problem for Sullivan: The people who made the Willie Horton ad used his name and picture. Trying to locate the the Antichrist in this comedic ad is like trying to find little orange Oompa Loompas. It takes an overactive imagination.
Despite penning 38 paragraphs for his obituary, the closest AP's Douglas Birch came to mentioning the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Christian faith was by remarking how the bearded author and Soviet dissident looked like a religious icon:
In a 1978 speech at Harvard University, Solzhenitsyn - who with his beard and dour demeanor resembled a figure from an Orthodox icon - denounced the Western view that liberal democracy was fated to triumph in non-Western civilizations, which he called "worlds" unto themselves.
Yet it was in that speech -- "A World Split Apart" -- Baptist theologian Albert Mohler argues, that Solzhenitsyn famously diagnosed secularism as a disease corrupting the West and, what's more, he did so thoroughly anchored in his Orthodox Christian faith (emphasis mine):
Pitching a mix of softballs and loaded questions, US News & World Report writer Jay Tolson failed to press Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson with any queries from a conservative, orthodox Christian perspective in his July 30 interview with "The Gay Bishop at the Center of the Anglican Storm."
Indeed, at one point Tolson prodded Robinson to criticize the worldwide Anglican Communion for doing little to stop conservative breakaways from the increasingly liberal Episcopal Church USA:
You wouldn't even want the communion to bring an end to conservatives' efforts to create new jurisdictions or allow conservative jurisdictions (such as the Church of Nigeria) to bring breakaway congregations in other provinces under their authority?
When he wasn't asking "how does this make you feel" type questions about his treatment by conservative clergy, Tolson presented conservative Episcopals and Anglicans as "unyielding" on "hot-button issues," forgetting perhaps that religious faith is predicated on beliefs about eternal truths that are non-negotiable:
In yet another example of why the west might not beat the onslaught of radical Islamofascism, Minette Marrin of the Timesonline thinks she has found a solution to the clash of cultures. Marrin details the extremism evinced by too many Muslims in England and then posits a solution: ban all religion. Talk about an absurd idea. It's as foolish as throwing out the baby with the bath water. It also discounts thousands of years of worthy and enlightened western culture influenced, guided and based on Christian philosophy.
In To beat extremism we must dissolve religious groups, Marrin's wooly headed prescription also serves as a fine example of the most shallow of PC, postmodern "thinking." Famed French mathematician Jules Henri Poincaré once said that, "to doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection." It is a lesson in discernment and critical thinking that escapes most on the left, and specifically this prosaic, anti-intellectual Timesonline columnist.
Liberals often insist on the separation of church and state, but they’d really like to go further to separating the church from everything. That principle oozes into PBS, where a forthcoming Nova documentary insists the Bible is full of fables, not history. Orlando Sentinel TV critic Hal Boedeker reported from a PBS publicity session for TV critics:
Abraham didn't exist? The Exodus didn't happen?
The Bible's Buried Secrets, a new PBS documentary, is likely to cause a furor.
"It challenges the Bible's stories if you want to read them literally, and that will disturb many people," says archaeologist William Dever, who specializes in Israel's history. "But it explains how and why these stories ever came to be told in the first place, and how and why they were written down."
In the groves of academe, studying popular culture is often the preserve of nutty left-wing professors performing exotic Marxist autopsies on the imperialist dynamics of Donald Duck comic books. Academic conservatives are teaching and writing about Homer the Greek poet, not the cartoon, which is important but oftentimes leaves their audience without a learned guide to analyze the themes of our modern culture.
Fortunately, there is Thomas Hibbs, a professor of ethics and culture at Baylor University – and a film critic for National Review Online. Earlier this year, the Spence Publishing folks in Dallas published a valuable and fascinating book by the professor called "Arts of Darkness: American Noir and the Quest for Redemption."
Last week, the BBC aired a new TV series titled "Bonekickers" touted as a "groundbreaking" show where "history comes alive," and a series that is "Based in fact." The premier episode, though features an odd thing if "fact" is the aim of the Beeb's new TV series: a Christian beheading a Muslim. Yeah, THAT is really a "fact" based premise, isn't it?
Of course, the few remaining Christians in Britain have found themselves a bit put out by this "fact based" show where it is a Christian beheading a Muslim instead of the other way 'round.
And it isn't just a beheading, the entire episode turns our current "fact based" reality on its head as the plot gives us a group of "right wing Christians" bent on purging England of its immigrant population, a group the TV series is fictionalizing as the "White Wings Alliance." In a day when extremist Muslims the world over are killing people for not being a Muslim, this show features the exact opposite situation. Christian "extremists" killing innocent, moderate Muslims. For what reason? Only the Beeb knows for sure.
Exploring the notion that some Anglican parishes could soon return to full communion with Rome in protest of the Church of England allowing ordination of female bishops, Time magazine writers David Van Biema and Jeff Israely felt it necessary to throw in some loaded language about how English conservative Anglicans are different than their American Episcopal cousins:
Both the special nature of the English crisis and the Pope's possible involvement hinge on the fact that most of the English dissidents this week are not the evangelical, Bible-thumping members of the Communion whose fury at the American ordination of an openly gay bishop has led to talks of schism this summer. Rather they are members of a faction, heavy on liturgy and ritual, that abhors evangelicalism but considers itself very close to the Catholicism from which the Anglican Church originally sprang.
But wait, if conservative Anglicans across the Pond are about to bolt their church because the Bible forbids female bishops, how is that any less "Bible-thumping" than conservative Episcopals in the United States leaving the church because of openly homosexual bishops, a practice that also runs afoul of Scripture?
You can’t make this stuff up. The online version of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press reported on Wednesday that a homosexual man has filed lawsuits filed against two Christian publishers, since their editions of the Bible call homosexuality a sin.
A Canton [Michigan] man is suing Zondervan Publishing and a Tennessee-based publisher, claiming their versions of the Bible that refer to homosexuality as a sin violate his constitutional rights and have caused him emotional pain and mental instability.
Bradley LaShawn Fowler, 39, is seeking $60 million from Zondervan, based in Cascade Township, and $10 million from Thomas Nelson Publishing in the lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
In the unsigned report, the newspaper gave only the liberal viewpoint of the plaintiff and failed to include any reaction or response from the companies or from conservative sources.
You have to wonder sometimes what the headline writers at the news network Web sites are thinking.
Take in this gem from FoxNews.com today:
Um, yeah, the "notion of [a] suffering" Messiah comes from Hebrew prophecy itself (see Isaiah 53), according to historic Christian teaching, which holds that Jesus Christ fulfilled the numerous prophecies about the Messiah from the Old Testament, starting from Genesis 3:15 (the protoevangelion) and extending all the way through the books of "the Law and the Prophets" (Acts 28:23).
It's hardly an earth-shattering notion that Jesus Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament, and even journalists who don't believe in Jesus as Messiah should surely have a functional knowledge of this basic, nay central, claim of orthodox Christianity.
Covering the recent decision by a synod of bishops in the Anglican Church to permit the ordination of female bishops, CNN.com repeatedly alluded to "traditionalist" opposition to women holding episcopal office, but failed to find one such spokesman for traditionalists to defend the theology behind the position. (h/t Damian G. of Conservathink)
Indeed, the one traditionalist cited in the article had a middle-ground position, saying he had no problem with female bishops, so long as conservative Anglicans could have an out of sorts. Of course that compromise was smacked down in another synod vote:
Near the end of Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show" there was a taped segment of co-host Julie Chen talking to the executive producer of the CBS reality show "Big Brother," Allison Grodner, who previewed some of the contestants in the show’s new season: "Dan is a Catholic school teacher from Michigan. He really doesn't think women are equal. And he felt really strongly, especially, about the possibility that Hillary Clinton would have become president. He said he would have left the country. And he was dead serious about that."
After describing the stereotypical conservative white male, Grodner went on to describe an Obama supporter on the show, a young Afircan-American woman: "Libra is the rebel mom and strong opinions, very liberal. She's the Obama girl in Bush country." Just prior to that description of the "rebel Obama girl" a clip was played of the conservative Dan explaining his opposition to Obama: "My only concern is Barack Obama is wildy charismatic, has a huge aura around him. Which, if you're not very educated, you may vote for him just because, you know, he's more charismatic."
"Big Brother," which is hosted by Chen, seems to be taking a political angle this season. Watch video of cast preview here.
Here we go again. Another relic pops up of questionable authenticity that one or two experts is saying casts doubts on the unique claims of Christian orthodoxy. So of course Time.com put the story of the so-called "Gabriel's Revelation" tablet in its July 7 top stories lineup (see screencap at right), with the teaser headline, "Was Jesus' Resurrection a Sequel?"
The story by David Van Biema and Tim McGirk breathlessly began by noting how this "revelation" could set some orthodox Christians on edge:
A 3-ft.-high tablet romantically dubbed "Gabriel's Revelation" could challenge the uniqueness of the idea of the Christian Resurrection. The tablet appears to date authentically to the years just before the birth of Jesus and yet - at least according to one Israeli scholar - it announces the raising of a messiah after three days in the grave. If true, this could mean that Jesus' followers had access to a well-established paradigm when they decreed that Christ himself rose on the third day - and it might even hint that they they could have applied it in their grief after their master was crucified.
But then Van Biema and McGirk dialed it down a bit (emphasis mine):
On June 20, I blogged about how All Saints Episcopal Church in Phoenix, Arizona, was thanked at the conclusion of a viral video entitled "I'm Voting Republican." The video featured actors portraying Republican voters who sounded left-wing talking points, including one portraying a minister saying that he was voting GOP because women should "never, ever, ever" be trusted with decisions over their own bodies.
After publishing my blog post, I called the church office for comment, leaving a voice mail for the church's financial administrator, who was thanked by name in the credits.
Checking my e-mail tonight I found the following e-mail reply, by the executive assistant to All Saints' rector, denying advance knowledge by church officials of the "content... or intended use" of the video:
"Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts treated Father Michael Pfleger to a fawning interview on Thursday in which she mostly ignored his radical comments and lauded the "maverick priest," describing him as "not someone to be silenced."
Although, a previous segment featured a single clip of Pfleger's sermon at the former church of Barack Obama where he viciously attacked Senator Hillary Clinton, Roberts ignored other, more inflammatory remarks by the priest, such as his assertion, made during the same sermon as the Clinton attack, that "America has been raping people of color and America has to pay the price for the rape!" Of course, Roberts didn't mention this quote. Instead, she spun Pfleger as someone who is "passionate about the Word" and cheered the anti-crime and poverty work he's done.
Over the course of two programs on Tuesday evening, CNN political analyst Roland Martin unhesitatingly ran to the defense of Barack Obama against the recent criticism of Dr. James Dobson, who characterized the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate of "distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology" in a 2006 speech. On the "Election Center" program, Martin tried to deny Dobson’s influence in the American evangelical community: " I think we're doing the nation a disservice by calling James Dobson an evangelical leader." Then on "Anderson Cooper 360," he accused Dobson and other evangelicals of wanting to "tear down Obama, the person who is talking about faith..."
By now you may have seen press coverage of a new viral video entitled "I'm Voting Republican" in which numerous people give facetious reasons for voting GOP this November, all of them echoing liberal memes about conservatives and Republicans.
But checking the credits, I came across something that caught my eye, the "Special Thanks" portion of the video credits. One thing in particular stood out, a note of thanks to "All Saints' Episcopal Church." The name appearing above that credit lists one "Shelley Dudley" as another person thanked for her help. Since SyntheticHuman Pictures, the company that produced the "I'm Voting Republican" video hails from Phoenix, I quickly found the Web page for the church in question and that Ms. Dudley is the church's financial administrator.
One of the scenes in the video features an actor named Jason J. Baker portraying one Rev. David Madison saying, "I'm voting Republican because women just can't be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies. Never, ever, ever." Behind Baker is a stained-glass window.
Given the partisan nature of the video and the advice the company gives in a "Get Involved" section of its Web site for concerned viewers to join liberal groups like MoveOn.org, it may be worth someone in the mainstream media asking if it's appropriate for a church to let its facilities be used for the filming of a partisan video.
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez described the Catholic Church’s refusal to allow filming on Church property of a movie prequel to "The DaVinci Code," starring Tom Hanks, this way: "...the battle between Tom Hanks and the Vatican. You know he's in Rome filming the prequel to 'The Da Vinci Code,' 'Angels and Demons,' and the Church there is up in arms, they're barring them from filming in churches. They believe the film, like the book, is sacrilegious."
On Wednesday, ABC’s "Good Morning America" featured a story on the controversy in which correspondent Nick Watt declared: "When the might of Rome clashes with a literary behemoth, expect some colorful language. 'An offense against God,' is what a diocese of Rome spokesman just called this book." Watt then later proclaimed: "The Dan Brown express will not be stopped," to which GMA co-host Diane Sawyer replied: "Yes, Nick, I mean that's the irony, isn't it? The more the Church complains, probably the better it is for the business."
Meanwhile, on Thursday’s "Early Show," correspondent Allen Pizzey explained: "Fans of the book, 'Angels and Demons,' keep streaming into the churches in Rome where the plot unfolds. But the film crew turning it into a movie has been banned from them and any other Church property. The plot is not overly anti-Church, but some of the most graphic scenes are not something with which the Church wants to be associated."
CNN, following in the footsteps of ABCNews.com’s overblown take on the subject, couldn’t help but to insert snotty language into its report on the Catholic Diocese of Rome’s denial to the filming of the movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s "Angels and Demons." CNN international correspondent Jennifer Eccleston, closing her report on Thursday’s "American Morning," labeled the Church’s refusal, based on "The Da Vinci Code" book and movie’s bashing of the Catholic faith, "a big problem in Rome, where some sins are just too grave to be forgiven -- even if they're for art's sake."
"Sins" that are "just too grave to be forgiven" calls to mind Matthew 12:32, where Jesus Christ refers to blasphemy against the Holy Ghost as a sin that won’t be forgiven "neither in this world, nor in the world to come." It isn’t certain that Eccleston had this scriptural quotation in mind, but she certainly gave the impression that the Church is being "un-Christian" for not letting Ron Howard and Tom Hanks film there.
ABCNews.com, reporting on the Catholic Diocese of Rome refusing permission to Ron Howard’s plans to film the movie prequel to Dan Brown’s "The DaVinci Code" in two historic churches, used loaded wording in the headline: "Church Cracks Down on New ‘Da Vinci’ Film."
The lead for the report, written by Phoebe Natanson and Luchina Fisher, also used similar imagery to describe the Catholic Church’s refusal: "Once again, the Catholic Church is coming down hard on writer Dan Brown, the author of ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ The producers of Brown's latest thriller to be made into a film, ‘Angels and Demons,’ have been banned from filming key scenes inside any church in Rome, on the grounds that the book is "an offense against God," according to a church spokesman.
Speaking of "coming down hard," wasn’t Brown doing just that in "The Da Vinci Code" by depicting the Catholic Church as a nefarious organization?
I noticed this photo accompanying an unrelated and relatively straightforward AP story at MSNBC.com about Barack Obama's electoral strategy. As you can see, it falls into the Obama-as-messiah mold, albeit a little more subliminal and requiring more biblical literacy than previous still shots:
Photo by Alex Brandon/AP. Caption: "Sen. Barack Obama walks to the pulpit to speak at the Apostolic Church of God service about fatherhood in Chicago on Sunday."
As you can see from the photo, the background is a brick wall with the text "Jesus Christ Is Lord" emblazoned beneath a depiction of a descending dove. Depicting Obama beneath it evokes to the biblically literate reader the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit as a dove upon Jesus after his baptism, as recorded in all four gospel accounts.
On the one hand, I have to give the Washington Post some credit for its biased June 16 story about a new pro-life pharmacy set to open in northern Virginia this summer. Even with its less-than-fair treatment, it informs pro-life readers of a new pharmacy they may wish to patronize. Of course the store opening is worthy of news coverage for a number of reasons, such as the intersection of faith and professional ethics in health care, but unfortunately, staffer Rob Stein started right off the bat slanting coverage in a way to disparage the enterprise.
When DMC Pharmacy opens this summer on Route 50 in Chantilly, the shelves will be stocked with allergy remedies, pain relievers, antiseptic ointments and almost everything else sold in any drugstore. But anyone who wants condoms, birth control pills or the Plan B emergency contraceptive will be turned away.