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.
Chicago Tribune religion reporter and blogger Manya Brachear echoed a familiar liberal media meme about orthodox Christianity in her latest "The Seeker" blog post, "Have Southern Baptists lost their way?" (emphases mine):
As a number of conservative Protestant denominations now face decline, leaders have chosen to batten down the hatches, endorse orthodoxy and herald the importance of sharing their faith with others.
But if these denominations narrow their theology at the same time they widen their outreach, is anybody going to listen?
My colleague Tim Graham and I have found over the years that religion reporting in the secular media is often lacking any exploration of the one thing most of us who actually geek out over religion news want to see given attention in the press: theological disputes. After all, what's the point of having a reporter cover religion if you're not going to have him or her go into the substantial theological battle lines drawn in a given church or denomination.
In her June 11 article, "Southern Baptists Elect New Leader," Washington Post's Jacqueline Salmon completely failed to report on such a major theological implication in the Protestant denomination's election of the Rev. Johnny M. Hunt as convention president.True to liberal media form, Salmon boiled down Hunt and his supporters as the "fundamentalist wing" who are "hard line on the inerrancy of scripture" and opposed to the more relaxed "young reformers" who have questioned the old line Baptists on "its bans on alcohol consumption and female pastors."
Yet Salmon neglected one major theological debate roiling in the SBC that is part of a wider centuries-old conflict: Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Wrote Christianity Today's Ted Olsen in a June 10 post:
In the Washington Post's June 5 Prince George's County Extra insert, staffer Hamil Harris penned a story focused on how Barack Obama's decision to leave his controversial church "is not sitting well with some African American pastors and scholars in Prince George's County."
Harris went on to quote two preachers disappointed with Obama, as well as University of Maryland's Ronald Walters, a reliably liberal pundit. The closest Harris found to being critical of Obama's former church was a pastor who conceded that some ministers may need to "rethink how [their] message of liberation is being communicated."
At no point in Harris's 11-paragraph story, however, did he pick up on any county clergy who have strong misgivings about Rev. Jeremiah Wright or Trinity's theology and its impact on the faith community.
Perhaps Harris should add Prince George's County minister Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr. to his Rolodex. Jackson serves as the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and has devoted at least two of his recent Townhall.com columns to critiquing the theology and temperment of Obama's former senior pastor. From Jackson's May 5 column, "The Way That Seems Wright" (emphasis mine):
CNN’s Kyra Phillips and Suzanne Malveaux fretted over Barack Obama’s recent decision to leave his "controversial church" during a segment on Monday’s "American Morning." During her introduction to Malveaux’s report on the decision, Phillips lamented, "You know, he's getting criticized -- okay, he acting like a typical politician.... He's bailing out of the church. Well, he would have been accused of the same type of things if he stayed in the church. He can't win." Malveaux responded, "The things is, you know, Kyra, this was a personal decision. It was a political decision, but also a personal decision. When I interviewed Michelle Obama, they talked about the kind of pain that -- actually disassociating themselves from Reverend Wright...."
Both before and after her report, Malveaux guessed that the fact that the Obamas "had no control over the church" contributed to their decision to leave.
On Monday's "Good Morning America," the morning show featured a new religious expert who explained away some of the radical statements heard at Barack Obama's now former church. Father Edward Beck, the host of "Faith Matters Now" on ABC News's video site ABC News Now, also defended Father Michael Pfleger, the latest religious leader to make incendiary remarks at Trinity United Church. (In a video, Pfleger can be heard condemning, "I also believe that America is the greatest sin against God.") Co-host Chris Cuomo prompted, "You say he's much more than how he's being characterized as this kind of bad parody of an African-American preacher. Tell me."
Responding to the softball, Beck justified, "Well, everybody is more than a few sound bites can demonstrate." The two, along with NPR analyst Juan Williams were discussing not only Pfleger, but also the enthusiastic response the mostly African American congregation gave him and (on other occasions) the incendiary Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Again, Beck, who was appearing on GMA for the first time as a religious expert, offered standard liberal guilt by asserting, "But I think you have to understand underneath [the congregation's cheering] there is real sentiment. There is a feeling of being disenfranchised."
Who says there's no humor in politics? Obama communications director Robert Gibbs went on ABC's This Week today, and in one of the better deadpan bits since Buster Keaton actually said that Barack Obama's decision to quit the Trinity United Church of Christ was "not political."
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: In Philadelphia, just in April, Senator Obama said of Reverend Wright "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." Now he's cut all ties to Reverend Wright, and left his church. What is it a mistake to wait this long?
ROBERT GIBBS: No, George. I think obviously what Barack Obama made in the past few days is a deeply personal, not a political decision. And as you heard the reasoning, he made that decision for two reasons. One, even guest speakers that were at Trinity, their views were ascribed to him even though he didn't hold those views, and secondly, the members of Trinity couldn't do what members of a church do, and that is, sit in quiet reflection and worship God.
Father Michael Pfleger, whose endorsement of Barack Obama until recently appeared on the official Obama website, mocks Hillary Clinton's tears during a sermon at Obama's church, the Trinity United Church of Christ, on May 25, 2008.
[Update (16:33 EDT): The AP has changed its lede to read "The Vatican insisted Friday that it is properly following Christian tradition by excluding females from the priesthood as it issued a new warning that women taking part in ordinations will be excommunicated." (h/t Damian G. of Conservathink).]
According to the Associated Press, the Vatican is "slamming the door on attempts by women to become priests in the Roman Catholic Church." But it's rather hard to slam shut a door that was never open, which is what Catholic Church teaching holds about women serving in the priesthood.
From a May 30 article entitled "Vatican: excommunication for female priests" (paragraph break removed):
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican is slamming the door on attempts by women to become priests in the Roman Catholic Church. It has strongly reiterated in a decree that anyone involved in ordination ceremonies is automatically excommunicated. A top Vatican official said in a statement Friday that the church acted following what it called "so-called ordinations" in various parts of the world.
Yet far from "slamming" shut the possibility of female priests, the Catholic Church holds that God, speaking to His people through the words of Scripture -- not the Pope or the Church -- bars women from clerical office. This, however, by no means diminishes the role of women in the life of the church, as Catholic apologist Jason Evert explains (emphasis mine):
Mika Brzezinski realizes that the latest looniness emanating from Barack Obama's church poses political problems for the presidential candidate. But as a person of pallor, the ever-so-PC Morning Joe-er doesn't want to judge a black church—even when the most recent rantings come from the mouth of . . . a white preacher.
Morning Joe opened today with a clip of Father Michael Pfleger guest-preaching this past Sunday at Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ. Pfleger, a fixture on the radical Chicago scene whose endorsement of Obama [h/t Michelle Malkin] until recently appeared on the official Obama campaign website, mocked Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire tears as a sign of her frustrated sense of white entitlement. The screencap shows Pfleger making like Hillary wiping away those tears.
(Watch video above, context included, fast-forward to 3:40 for Brzezinski's humorous comment.)
But while acknowledging the headache Pfleger poses for Obama, Mika was oh-so-loath to comment on the substance or tone of the remarks themselves. Excerpts from her discussion with Tucker Carlson, Mike Barnicle and Willie Geist:
Eat your heart out Lyndon LaRouche. The Trilateral Commission is so 1970s. It's really "The Fellowship" that's really running the world according to religion professor Jeff Sharlet in his new book "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power."
Despite being a fanciful yet unsubstantiated conspiracy theory, U.S. News & World Report dignified Sharlet's take on a little-known Christian organization with a May 28 article by Jay Tolson entitled "Exposing a Network of Powerful Christians.":
It is an elite and secretive network of fundamentalist Christians that has been quietly pulling strings in America's highest corridors of power for more than 70 years. Or so claims Jeff Sharlet, author of a new exposé, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. And in his telling, the group that calls itself the Fellowship operates at the very center of the vast, right-wing conspiracy that has promoted unfettered capitalism and dismantled liberal social policies at home, even while encouraging ruthless but America-friendly dictators abroad.
Los Angeles Times media critic Tim Rutten, in his latest column titled "The rebirth of abortion," voiced his dismay that social conservatives are reviving the issue of abortion in the 2008 presidential campaign. "If there's one issue that epitomizes the culture wars that have so deeply divided American politics over the last eight years, it's abortion. That's why those who benefited most from those wars are desperate to revive abortion's single-issue virulence in this presidential cycle." He continued that "some on the right think they see an opportunity to hammer once more on the abortion wedge."
Rutten also launched an attack one key member of the so-called "hard cultural right:" Robert Novak. At one point, Rutten suggested that if Novak used a phrase like "abortion industry" to describe abortionists and their supporters, it would be legitimate to use a term like "under the sway of neo-fascist clericism" to describe Novak and his pro-life fellow travelers.
"Good Morning America" on Thursday picked up an attack on John McCain that has grown popular in left-wing media outlets and turned it into a Brian Ross investigation of the senator's "pastor problem." In a preview, co-host Diane Sawyer solemnly intoned, "This morning, John McCain's pastor problem. Is the preacher McCain calls a spiritual guide fueling the fire of Muslim hatred in America?" Investigative reporter Ross then preceded to warn how the Arizona senator's appearance with a pastor who loudly attacked Islam has "badly complicated" McCain's attempts to reach out to the Muslim world. [audio available here]
Where did Ross find the various clips of the Reverend Rod Parsley condemning Islam and standing on a podium with John McCain? The story has already been touted in liberal outlets such as Mother Jones magazine and heavily featured on the website Brave New Films,a creation of Robert Greenwald, best known for documentaries bashing Fox News and Wal Mart. (Despite this, Sawyer touted the "exclusive" nature of the investigation.) Additionally, the web version of Ross's story featured a misleading attempt to more closely associate McCain and Parsley. The ABC News headline asserted: "McCain Pastor: Islam Is a 'Conspiracy of Spiritual Evil.'" McCain's pastor? The Republican presidential candidate sought the reverend's support in February 2008. McCain is not a member of Parsley's World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio.