Dusting off its occasional "This Week's Words" series, the religion section for the December 27 Washington Post chose a Christmas sermon that sounds, at least to conservative Christian ears, more like the Gospel according to Stuart Smalley --I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, God likes me -- than anything by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The sermon series has previously served to highlight liberal messages from the capital region's pulpits.
However quick we are to see the moral deficiencies in others, God annoyingly seems to see the good in every soul.
This Christmas, we adore the Holy Child who came to Earth in a cold and drafty stable. As we look into the manger scene, if we look closely enough, we'll see something even more amazing: the love of God born in us.
Charlie Brown first asked in 1965, "Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" Judging by the Christmas songs featured on the morning network shows during the 2008 Christmas season, his question is still relevant 43 years later.
Researchers at the Culture and Media Institute analyzed the songs artists performed during appearances on ABC’s "Good Morning America," NBC’s "Today," and CBS’ "The Early Show" between October 31 and Dec. 16 and found that only six out of the 22 Christmas songs performed on the morning shows had religious themes.
Performers on ABC failed to highlight religious carols but did offer viewers a dose of liberal politics disguised as Christmas cheer. Melissa Etheridge ("A New Thought for Christmas") sang her original song "Christmas in America" on the Dec. 16 broadcast while wearing a Barack Obama campaign symbol on her guitar strap. Lyrics of the song include:
When during its first half-hour this Christmas morning "Today" moved to a conversation between Matt Lauer and Pastor Rick Warren, I braced myself. Don't tell me, I thought, they're going to get into the invitation Pres.-elect Obama extended him to give the invocation at the Inauguration, and the reaction of some gay-rights groups. Well, surprise! They didn't: not in word or implication. Warren appeared strictly in his role as pastor, and the conversation focused exclusively on the meaning of the day.
The video clip is of the portion of the conversation in which Warren describes the origin and practice of a Warren family tradition of holding a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Day.
This is really delicious, and should cheer up the grinchiest of Grinches and the scroogiest of Scrooges:
Rumors that Santa Claus may be the latest and most high-profile victim of the worldwide credit crisis sent world stock markets roiling and children's hopes plummeting today as Wall Street analysts warned that Santa's entire production and distribution network could collapse by the end of the day without an infusion of several trillion dollars from the federal government.
Marvelously, the good folks at National Lampoon have already created an hysterical video of Santa asking Congress for bailout funds (embedded below the fold).
But before we get there, Kansas City.com's TV Barn published Alex R. Dahl's satirical piece moments ago:
In 2005, I sensed that journalists in general prefer to call this time of the year in commerce that of “holiday shopping” instead of “Christmas shopping,” but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to “Christmas.” My instincts have been proven correct during the past three years.
So did anything change in 2008?
Not that much, but slightly in the secular direction. Here are the overall results of various relevant Google News searches for the past four years (searches have been done three times each year -- just before Thanksgiving, about weeks later, and shortly before Christmas Day; this years Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively; image courtesy of commenter "siouxcityranch" at Dr. BLT's Blog n Roll Studio):
Rev. Jeremiah Wright was a voice crying in the wilderness that the mainstream media and middle class America weren't quite ready for and megachurch pastor Rick Warren is an ignorant evangelical rube who isn't totally without hope, given his awareness of AIDS and other favored liberal causes.
An astonishing thing happened in Baghdad on Saturday: Christians, apparently for the first time in the city's history, publicly celebrated Christmas.
CNN's Jill Dougherty published an article about this extraordinary event at the network's website Sunday which included a video of her interviewing Iraqis of varied religious beliefs at the scene.
However, from what I can tell, this extremely charming report has not been aired yet by CNN television, nor has it gotten much coverage by other outlets here in America (video embedded below the fold, photo courtesy AFP via British Telegraph):
Tomaso noted that Fr. Ron Elliott describes himself as "very pro-life" but that after reviewing the books in question "he didn't find anything objectionable" and will hence return the books to the shelves "in February or March" as Elliott noted, "after the dust kind of settles."
At that point Tomaso couldn't refuse the impulse to add an editorial quip:
As NewsBuster Dan Gainor has noted, Playboy Mexico thought it could make some pesos by peddling an issue with a scantily-clad Virgin Mary on the cover—just in time for Christmas. Today's Los Angeles Times contains an editorial denouncing the tasteless stunt. All well and good. But it set me to wondering. Did the LAT protest similar outrages against religous symbols when they appeared in the US?
The infamous "Piss Christ" comes to mind. Even more on point is the portrait of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by lacquered elephant dung and cutouts from pornographic magazines, that the Brooklyn Museum found worthy of display.
Even in death, the New York Times often can’t really be generous to conservatives. The paper’s obituary for Paul Weyrich, penned by Bruce Weber, identified the deceased as conservative or referenced conservatism 17 times (once in a nice quote from James Dobson). That doesn’t count the headline "Paul Weyrich, 66, A Conservative Strategist, Dies." What really stands out are the two ultra-conservative tags:
A writer, a lobbyist and an organizer on behalf of conservative causes and especially social conservatism, Mr. Weyrich (pronounced WY-rick) was one of the far right’s most unbending ideologues. He was widely credited with coining the phrase "moral majority" as a rallying label for social conservatives. It became the name of the religion-based political organization that was led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
A deacon in the ultra-conservative Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Mr. Weyrich openly fused his faith and his politics.
Surely no one would view Rev. Jeremiah Wright as closer to the centerpoint of American politics than Pastor Rick Warren, right? Wrong. Here's Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: It seems like Barack Obama, as much as seems to inspire people, including me, has a problem with pastors. I don't know what it is. You get him hooked up with a pastor, whether it's Jeremiah Wright, or it's this guy Rick Warren. One's on the left, one's on the far right. Both are causing him trouble.
So Wright's merely "left," while Warren's "far-right." Do we really need to prove the obvious: that Warren is vastly more mainstream than Wright? It hardly seems worth the effort, but let's consider a few factoids:
In his December 19 blog post, "You too can be a spiritual dilettante," Get Religion contributor Douglas LeBlanc shared his bemusement with self-admitted atheist Sally Quinn's helpful suggestions to Newsweek/Washington Post's "On Faith" readers about interfaith dialogue. LeBlanc noted that Quinn gave her readers this assignment:
Try a new faith (or non-faith) for one day. That exploration can include attending a different place of worship or an event hosted by another faith tradition, discussing faith with someone whose views differ from your own, or inviting someone of a different faith to experience yours.
Then come back to the site and tell us about your experience. What did you learn? What surprised you? What bothered you? What would you like to know more about? How did you experience with another faith impact your understanding of or appreciation for that faith or for your own? Take a picture and share that too.
That's when LeBlanc turned on the snark, lambasting Quinn as out of touch with religious Americans who most certainly are politely engaged in theological conversations with friends, family and neighbors on a regular basis (emphasis mine):
Rick Warren had a surprisingly candid response to Ann Curry's question as to whether he would change his views on homosexuality if it were established that people are born gay. The pastor of the Saddleback Church, explaining why such a finding wouldn't cause him to change his position, observed that he is inclined to want to have sex with every beautiful woman he sees, but that that doesn't make it right.
Curry interviewed Warren for a Dateline segment that will be aired tonight on NBC. As noteworthy as Warren's candor was Curry's ostentatious display of righteous liberal anger, captured in the screengrab, while asking Warren whether he is homophobic.
On Thursday’s The View, co-host Joy Behar expressed her displeasure at President-Elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren for the invocation at his inauguration: “I don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s like putting, you know, Cheney in charge of gun control. It’s wrong....it’s just wrong.”
The topic of Obama choosing Warren came up during the regular opening “Hot Topics” segment of the ABC daytime program. Whoopi Goldberg, who moderated the segment, introduced the controversy behind this choice: “...[A] lot of folks are opposed to this gentleman: gay -- because he opposes gay marriage, he’s anti-abortion -- he’s got a lot of different stances. There’s a lot of people saying he’s a bad choice.”
Elisabeth Hasselbeck was the first co-host to come to Warren’s defense: “I think he’s a great choice. He held the forum -- remember when he did the forum between McCain and Obama during the election? He sat them down and had the faith forum, which I found was great during our times right now. And I think that he’ll -- I think he’ll do a great job. He’s got an incredible following, he’s a strong speaker.”
The baby Jesus is missing from many nativity scenes, and ABC’s “Good Morning America” makes fun of a church’s decision to install a GPS on their tiny savior. On Dec. 14, “Good Morning America” featured a story about churches fighting back against thieves who steal the baby Jesus from outdoor nativity scenes. Instead of seriously underscoring a pattern of crime, the network sent out a reporter to pilfer a wise man, and test the satellite tracking system, all while playing “spy” themed music.
When GMA anchors, Kate Snow and Bill Weir teased the upcoming story, they couldn’t contain their giggles. “We can't even say it without laughing,” said Snow. “But they're using GPS to track them down.” she quipped. “Baby Jesus LoJack,” snickered Weir.
You would think even Playboy magazine had limits. It doesn't.
The famous skin magazine found a way to attack Christians and push porn at the same time. The magazine's Mexican copy featured "a model wearing nothing but a white cloth over her head and breasts," according to Reuters Life. "The magazine, which hit newsstands on December 1 as ceremonies began leading to Friday's pilgrimage to the Mexico City shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe," the article continued.
On the cover: "We Love You, Maria" in Spanish. The company printed 100,000 copies of this outlandish Christmastime cover. Another picture inside the magazine apparently features her standing in front of stained glass - just in case you missed the offensive comparison.
The outcry was appropriately swift. Even Playboy can admit something goes too far - afterward.
Washington, D.C., local JoEllen Murphy has received a steady stream of media exposure for her Biblical message to counter the controversial "Why believe in a god?" ads seen on metro-area busses.
On Monday, December 15, D.C.-area Metro busses will sport a pro-God advertisement that is a direct response to a $40,000 atheistic ad campaign sponsored by the American Humanist Association. Those ads read, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake."
This news item led me to ask the question posed in the headline:
(Reuters) - Newsweek magazine is planning staff cuts as part of a major editorial makeover likely to result in a slimmer publication, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people close to the magazine.
The cuts are expected to be outlined in two companywide meetings on Thursday, and will come from an extension of voluntary redundancies offered in the spring, when Newsweek shed 111 jobs, the paper said.
Update (11:37 a.m. EST): Miller is now on the radio program. She insists she had a radio show scheduling conflict. Ingraham apologized for saying she chickened out.
Update (11:26 a.m. EST): Miller backed out of appearing even solo with Ingraham. Mohler is now talking with Ingraham.
A few minutes from now Newsweek's Lisa Miller will appear on the Laura Ingraham radio program to defend her recent article that insists the Bible can reasonably be interpreted to defend same-sex marriage. Shortly after she goes toe-to-toe with Ingraham, the radio host will feature Baptist theologian Albert Mohler who will offer a full-fledged rebuttal. Apparently she refused to go on the show at the same time as Mohler.
Newsweek is hardly the only MSM publication that is clueless about the Christian faith. The New York Times is also reliably feckless when it comes to reporting on what makes biblically orthodox Christians tick.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler took the Gray Lady to task last Friday for its reporting on the recnet formation of a new coalition of Anglican churches that have broken off from the liberal Episcopal Church USA over concerns of doctrinal liberalism.
In "It's About Theology, Not Territory," the Baptist theologian and pastor lamented that Laurie Goodstein's December 3 story on the formation of the Anglican Church in North America painted the dispute in a way to portray the liberal ECUSA as an aggrieved victim of dogmatic conservatives. By contrast, Mohler points to a lack of doctrinal clarity in the Anglican Communion being the fertile ground by which liberals were able to erode the boundaries of historic, orthodox Christian teaching and thus threaten the unity of the church around the Gospel of Jesus Christ (emphasis mine):
"I don't know why he's attacking Time magazine," a puzzled Seton Motley told "Fox & Friends" host Steve Doocy this morning, referring to the president-elect's former longtime pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. On Sunday the retired minister -- who married the Obamas and baptized their children -- issued a fiery screed against the media -- calling the mainstream media the "gates of hell" -- from the pulpit of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.
"They [Time magazine] were certainly much nicer to him than a lot of journalistic outlets were, and by nicer I mean hiding him and preventing him from being a bigger player in the presidential race," the MRC director of communications added. "Look, the media's not going to cover this guy in the way that they should because of his 20-year relationship with Barack Obama." [audio available here]
Doocy and Motley also discussed the media's reticence on reporting on Obama's Bill Ayers connection during the campaign. To see the full appearance, click the play button on the embedded video to your right.
Jon Meacham’s ascension to the editor’s chair at Newsweek has marked a very noticeable trend toward turning it into Opinion Week (or OpEdWeek). Its cover stories are often not investigative news pieces, but long editorials. This week, religion reporter Lisa Miller uncorked "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage," and Meacham's Editor's Note dared the religious right to protest, like President Bush egging on the terrorists to "bring it on." Meacham clearly sees his magazine as a crusading progressive weekly:
The reaction to this cover is not difficult to predict. Religious conservatives will say that the liberal media are once again seeking to impose their values (or their "agenda," a favorite term to describe the views of those who disagree with you) on a God-fearing nation. Let the letters and e-mails come. History and demographics are on the side of those who favor inclusion over exclusion. (As it has been with reform in America from the Founding forward.)
Shortly after dismissing the Bible as archaic and "lukewarm" on marriage, Newsweek's Lisa Miller waxed poetic about it as a "powerful" "living document", essentially suggesting that religious conservatives who consider Scripture to be the inerrant, eternally true decrees of God Himself have a lower view of the Bible than religious liberals:
Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.
Perhaps ignorant of the biblical warning against double-mindedness (James 1:5-8) four paragraphs earlier Miller began her treatise by misrepresenting and then scoffing at the Bible's teachings on sex and marriage, confusing human sinfulness for biblical teaching and Jesus and the Apostle Paul's teachings for a virtual loathing of marriage:
Time magazine’s Jeff Israely compared Pope Benedict XVI to Charles Dickens' most famous character in his latest column, which focuses on the “tough line on Church doctrine” the pontiff has taken: “...[T]here is growing proof that the 82-year-old Pope is...quite willing to play the part of Scrooge to defend his often rigid view of Church doctrine.” Israely later put Scrooge’s characteristic anti-Christmas exclamation in the mouth of the Holy Father: “...[O]ne can imagine Benedict flashing that gentle smile, tilting his head ever so slightly and declaring: Bah Humbug!”
The correspondent’s Thursday column on Time.com, titled “The Pope’s Christmas Gift: A Tough Line on Church Doctrine,” began with Israely apparently lamenting that the old nicknames for the Pope are no longer effective tools: “Those nicknames from the past — God's Rottweiler, the Panzercardinal — don't seem to stick anymore. After acquiring a reputation as an aggressive, doctrine-enforcing Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI has surprised many with his gentle manner and his writings on Christian love.” He then saw it fit to give the Pope the “Scrooge” nickname, just in time for Christmas: “But with the Christmas season upon us, there is growing proof that the 82-year-old Pope is also quite willing to play the part of Scrooge to defend his often rigid view of Church doctrine.”
On Tuesday night’s Campbell Brown show, CNN raised liberal worries about the Bush administration’s plan in the final days to broaden the conscience clause for medical professionals who object to performing abortion and sterilization procedures. But Randi Kaye’s report questioning a Catholic doctor in Virginia for daring to refuse to provide "care" (translation: abortion or contraceptives) to female patients was most notable for its lack of timeliness: the interviews are now more than a year old, first appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 on November 26, 2007. CNN did not disclose to viewers that its story was largely a rerun.
In the interview for Wednesday’s Barbara Walters Special on ABC with Barack and Michelle Obama, excerpts of which were also shown on Wednesday’s World News with Charles Gibson, Walters asked few questions that put the Obamas on the defensive, in contrast with her January 2001 interview, aired on 20/20, with then-President-elect Bush in which she challenged him on a number of fronts. Most notably, she seemed to chide Bush for choosing John Ashcroft as Attorney General because he "openly opposes abortion," and claimed that Ashcroft was "not considered a friend to civil rights." She asked Bush about reports that, as governor of Texas, he "spent relatively little time studying specific issues," and "only does a few hours of work" a day. The ABC host also challenged Bush from the left on the trade embargo against Cuba, and even asked Laura Bush if her more "traditional" plans for her time as First Lady would be a "setback for women." It is also noteworthy that Walters asked Bush about his plans for dealing with Saddam Hussein and cited "people in the know" who contended that the Iraqi dictator was "stronger than ever."
Christmas is coming, which means it’s time for Comedy Central to begin besmirching the holiday. This year’s first salvo is “A Colbert Christmas,” hosted by the clueless-ultraconservative buffoon persona played by Stephen Colbert. Colbert is so busy manufacturing his O’Reillyesque right-wing jerk that it’s impossible to tell where the real man and the cartoon diverge. His adoring entourage in the secular press tries to smooth over his satires of Christianity by insisting he’s a Sunday school-teaching Catholic family man. Colbert told the Associated Press that he thinks his Christmas special is “sincerely strange, but strangely sincere.”
Why do men like this say such insincere things when promoting their shows? That claim of sincerity vanishes within the first 30 seconds, when Colbert proclaims in his white cardigan and red turtleneck that he’s so excited for his Christmas special he’s "sporting a Yule log" and gets out a baseball bat and promises to provide a "freshly hobbled Tiny Tim." I’m guessing that slogan is also ruined by the scene where he tongue-kisses a bear under the mistletoe.