July 2005 – This bulletin just in: The culture wars have turned nastier than ever. And if conservative Christians are offended by being called insane, stupid, sinister – or even the next incarnation of fascist storm troopers – they’d better get used to it.
The news media is a major player in these cultural conflicts, and if there was ever a pretense of impartiality when it came to liberal versus conservative, or secular versus religious, that disguise has been stripped away.
Off the charts
Over the last few years, it seems as though more members of the media have been willing to admit that real bias exists within the journalistic community.
For example, in his 2001 book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, former Emmy-award-winning CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg plainly said the news media is biased against conservatives and Christians. For his honesty, Goldberg was blasted by many of his media comrades.
But that seemed to open the door enough to allow others in the media to come clean. Recently Michelle Cottle, senior editor for the liberal magazine New Republic, said on CNN’s Reliable Sources that there is a strong bias among journalists when it comes to issues like evolution, the public display of the Ten Commandments, and same-sex marriage. These journalists “do behave as though the people who believe these things are on the fringe, when actually the vast majority of the American public describes itself as Christian.”
Others, like New York Times’ veterans Steve Roberts and R.W. Apple, and William McGowan, who has written for Newsweek, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, have said the same thing.
However, in the months approaching, but especially in the months following, the 2004 presidential election, the liberal media bias against Christians seems to have gone off the charts.
Liberal media fury toward believers seemed to reach its apex when Christian pro-family groups joined together in April for a televised event called Justice Sunday, which focused on the threat of activist judges. Numerous columnists raged against even the concept of such a program.
‘Enraged and paranoid disciples’
Perhaps the most vile attacks on conservative Christians showed up in the May issue of Harper’s magazine, which ran a series of cover-story articles under the headline, “The Christian Right’s War on America.” The stories themselves delivered exactly what the headline promised.
Harper’s editor Lewis H. Lapham began the foul festivities – which were worthy, at least verbally, of Nero – with his mocking and vitriolic article, “The wrath of the Lamb.”
Roasted on Lapham’s spit was the National Association of Evangelicals, after the group announced the release of its theological manifesto outlining Christian responsibilities in society. (See AFA Journal, 5/05.) The document was, Lapham said, “a bullying threat backed with the currencies of jihadist fervor and invincible ignorance.”
The Religious Right, in his view, consists of “increasingly large numbers of increasingly enraged and paranoid disciples who came together as a political constituency” just in time to get George Bush reelected. The Christian cultural agenda consists in “stupidity” resulting from “the gospels of fear and hate” espoused by believers. Apparently left with some ink in his printer cartridge, Lapham also declared that the ideology of the Christian Right “has engulfed vast tracts of the American mind in the fogs of superstition.”
Also in Harper’s was “Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB),” an article by Chris Hedges, an author and former journalist. The story is based on his observations at the NRB’s annual convention.
Addressing his concerns about “the new militant Christianity,” Hedges spends his five thousand or so words mischaracterizing and maligning believers in the worst way. What conservative Christians really want, he apprises the reader, is to “dismantle the democratic state.”
In the end, Hedges uses what may be the worst type of slander known to the modern mind: comparing Christians to the Nazis. He recalls the words of his Harvard Divinity School ethics professor, Dr. James Luther Adams, who apparently forewarned his students of the coming day when they would be fighting the “Christian fascists.”
Hedges wrote: “But fascism, warned Adams, … would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts. Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible; they would come carrying crosses and chanting the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Such sentiments are common among mainstream media pundits, who lately seem much more open about posting their malicious attacks so all can see.
Bill Maher, host of HBO’s live commentary show Real Time With Bill Maher, seems to have a deeply-rooted disdain for religious folk in general. On MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, he told host Joe Scarborough: “I think religion is a neurological disorder.”
For some in the media, the words Christian and dumb seem to be synonymous. CBS’ 60 Minutes’ professional grouser Andy Rooney is quite open about this. After the 2004 election, Rooney – a self-professed atheist – told a group of students and faculty at Tufts University that he thought religion is “all nonsense.” According to The Tufts Daily newspaper, he added that he thought Christian fundamentalism was the result of “a lack of education. They haven’t been exposed to what the world has to offer.”
In response, Christian columnist Cal Thomas said, “That Rooney still holds his job after stereotyping and disparaging Christians sends a message of bias, even bigotry, to a substantial audience that CBS had mostly lost and obviously does not care if it wins back.”
When it comes to spewing anti-Christian venom, however, columnists at the Washington Post and New York Times are gold-medal winners. For example, in an article entitled “What’s Going On?”, the Times’ Paul Krugman wrote about “the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.”
Guess who that is? As opposed to Islamic extremists who exist as a minority in nations like the Netherlands, Krugman said the U.S. is a nation “where dangerous extremists belong to the majority religion and the majority ethnic group, and wield great political influence.”
Krugman’s hysterical piece ends with this warning: “America isn’t yet a place where liberal politicians, and even conservatives who aren’t sufficiently hard-line, fear assassination. But unless moderates take a stand against the growing power of domestic extremists, it can happen here.”
So Hedges likens conservative Christians to Nazis, Krugman to Islamic terrorists, indicating that many liberals in the media seem anxious to dredge up every well-known villainous type they can think of and slap the label on believers.
Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King also has the itch to stereotype. King didn’t like the promoters of Justice Sunday, claiming in a column that “there is no depth to which they won’t sink in their campaign to seize the country.”
The leaders of the Religious Right, he said, “are not now and never will be the final arbiters of Christian beliefs and values. They warrant as much deference as religious leaders, as do members of the Ku Klux Klan, who also marched under the cross.”
At either newspaper, however, the head man on this media hit squad has to be Frank Rich. A talented writer, Rich unfortunately seems to relish opportunities to smite conservative Christians with his wrath.
In his columns, Rich has called members of the Christian Right “moral zealots” and “God racketeers,” and says they “will stop at little if they feel it is in their interests to exploit God to achieve” their ends. Likening them to those who burned witches at the stake in Salem and to the Taliban in Afghanistan, Rich believes Christian conservatives are simply “bullying” the majority into submission, having launched “a full-scale jihad” and “McCarthyism in God’s name.” They are like the fictional, fraudulent preacher Elmer Gantry, and use “the rhetoric of George Wallace and other segregationists.”
Haranguing against the competition
Anyone who has paid the least bit of attention to politics over the last 40 years knows that these diatribes by liberal media pundits are sheer hypocrisy.
Conservative columnist Don Feder, who is Jewish, remarks, “When any other group (environmentalists, feminists, peace activists) organizes to effect political change through education, lobbying, and get-out-the-vote efforts, it’s called … democracy. When Christians (as Christians) try to exercise their right as citizens, it’s called sinister, an attempted hijacking of the political process – theocracy! … Theocracy (replete with heretic-roasts) is just around the corner.”
However, a politically active Christian community in the U.S. is not simply a matter of choice any longer, but of necessity. Writing for the conservative National Review Online, contributing editor Stanley Kurtz, who identifies himself as a “secular American,” said, “Given the way they’re being treated in the culture at large, they’d be fools not to protect themselves by turning to politics. Yet traditional Christians are playing defense, not offense. Harper’s speaks of a ‘new militant Christianity.’ But if Christians are increasingly bold and political, they’ve been forced into that mode by 40 years of revolutionary social reforms.”
Still, what is driving the sheer hysterical anger of the liberal media concerning conservative Christianity? Feder said that “the Left has come to see evangelical Christians as the principal obstacle to the realization of its social agenda, hence the embodiment of evil. Correspondingly, attacks on ‘fundamentalists’ have grown increasingly shrill.”
In other words, Christianity is the main competitor to the liberal dream of a secular paradise. Who else would radical leftists harangue against, if not the opposition?
It is one thing for Christian ideals to be on the opposite end of the spectrum from secular liberalism – that is, a competitive idea only in the abstract. But conservative Christians are not just more involved, they’re becoming more successful in competing with secularists.
Thomas noted, “This isn’t really about religion. It’s about results. …[L]iberals fear their earthly power is slipping away. They are less able to impose a secular leftist world- view on the country.”
For the sake of the generations to come, Christians must continue to resist the secularization of America, for the result would be no paradise, but a spiritual disaster.
To be successful in the political realm, however, Christians must be equally willing to take the heat, and to shrug off the rabid attacks of the media babblers who see Christians as the enemy.