Facing the Goliath of the Liberal Media Part Two
Historically, the press has repeatedly proven itself a notoriously poor judge of character. When Abraham Lincoln, universally regarded as one of America’s truly great presidents, was nominated for office, the mainstream New York Herald had this to say: “The conduct of the Republican Party in this nomination is a remarkable indication of a small intellect, growing smaller.”1
There is nothing unusual about the news media taking shots at political candidates. What is unusual, however, is the consistently left-leaning worldview that now permeates American journalism. And though such a lopsided view of politics endangers our constitutional republic, there is an even more troubling development; and it poses a direct threat to evangelical, Bible-believing Christians.
Politically Correct Christianity
The press now considers itself an arbiter of what constitutes acceptable Christianity. The indications arose during President George W. Bush’s administration when it continually portrayed Bush (a Republican) as a religious extremist because he candidly admitted he is a born-again Christian. Jimmy Carter (a Democrat) made the same claim in his run for the White House in the 1970s. And former President Bill Clinton (a Democrat) is a Baptist who often posed for photographs with his Bible in hand as he entered the ultra-liberal Methodist church in Washington, DC, where he attended services.
Yet nary a reporter called Carter or Clinton fanatical, left-wing evangelicals. And it turns out that in 2003, Bush mentioned Jesus or Christ a mere 14 times, while Clinton did so no fewer than 41 times!2
Why didn’t the press lambaste President Clinton for excess religious zeal? Because he exhibited politically correct Christianity—a left-leaning brand that no doubt later gave hope to now-President Barack Obama’s campaign strategists. Democratic Party leaders, in fact, admitted they attempted to woo evangelical voters in 2008. However, to my knowledge, no mainstream pundits slandered the left-of-center senator for soliciting evangelical votes. (The National Journal ranked U.S. Sen. Obama [D-Ill.] as “the most liberal senator in 2007.”)3
A Parade of Slanders
But what about the conservative, politically incorrect version of evangelicalism? What does the press say about that? Let’s take a stroll down the last few years of press coverage.
In the February 22, 2005, issue of the Online Journal, Mark Drolette wrote this about President Bush’s Christian faith:
George W. Bush has anointed himself—or rather, considered himself anointed by the Great Anointer—the protector of some weird form of Christianity. When asked once to name his favorite philosopher, Bush said, “Christ.” I’ve often wished there’d immediately been a follow-up to determine if Dubya meant the purported Son of God, or Charles Manson during his messianic phase.
Of course, we might try to dismiss such mean-spirited writing as a product of the lawless, frontier world of Internet journalism. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Bill Moyers has been a mainstream journalist for years, most notably on PBS. On December 1, 2004, in accepting the Global Environment Citizen’s Award from Harvard Medical School, Moyers assailed a “theology” he deems “delusional.”
“Theology,” he bemoaned, “asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; idealogues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality.”4
The problem with the environmental movement, he said, is that it is opposed by a theology (Bible-based Christianity) that is wedded to a right-wing ideology. “For the first time in our history,” Moyers said, “ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington,” apparently referring to the effect conservative Christians have on national environmental policies.
Moyers gave the scorched-earth treatment to Left Behind series coauthor Tim LaHaye, calling him a “religious-right warrior” who subscribes, like other “true believers,” to a “fantastical theology.” He painted a monstrous portrait of “Christian fundamentalists” and then condemned them, inaccurately claiming they believe “environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed—even hastened—as a sign of the coming apocalypse.”5
What, he asked, should be the response of the liberals? To wrest America from the hands of the conservative Christians who would destroy planet Earth.
Moyers later expanded his Harvard speech in an article that ran on March 24, 2005, in the New York Review of Books. The title tells it all: “Welcome to Doomsday.”
The same month, an astoundingly malicious article appeared in the Los Angeles Times titled “Made-in-America Wahhabism.” Former Time correspondent William Thatcher Dowell opined that the debate over posting the Ten Commandments in public places showed him that conservative Christianity is remarkably similar to the “fanatical ultra-religious Wahhabi movement—the movement that is spiritually at the core of Al Qaeda.” Suddenly, conservative Christians were reduced to the level of Islamic terrorists.
Two months later, in May 2005, Harper’s magazine editor Lewis H. Lapham wrote “The Wrath of the Lamb” that ranted about evangelical “stupidity.” All it took to stir up his self-righteous indignation was an evangelical organization’s statement to call its members to “civic responsibility” to seek God’s “abundant wisdom” for national public policy.
Lapham denounced the attempt as reflecting “jihadist fervor and invincible ignorance.” Then he lambasted Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family for espousing “gospels of fear and hate.” Calling such Christians “delusional,” he concluded,
We err on the side of folly if we continue to grant the boon of tolerance to people who mean to do us harm in the conviction that they receive from Genesis the command “to take dominion over the earth,” to build the Kingdom of God, to create the Christian nation. The proposition is as murderous as it is absurd.
In that same issue of Harper’s, an article by Chris Hedges reached new heights of antievangelical fury in criticizing my organization, the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). It was titled “Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters.” After pointing out the NRB’s opposition to the aggressive homo-sexual movement, he concluded by reflecting on comments by the late Dr. James Luther Adams of Harvard Divinity School:
Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right’s persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral values not long after he took power in 1933 , then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications.
Conservative Christians would be blind, deaf, and dumb, not to notice the increasing hostility against them. They are being compared to Islamic terrorists and Adolf Hitler. Meanwhile, the mainstream news media either ignores these slanders or perpetuates them, apparently without the slightest twinge of journalistic conscience.
Three months later, the August 2005 issue of Harper’s ran an article it hyped on the front cover by author/environmentalist Bill McKibben titled “The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong.” It criticized conservative evangelicals while praising liberals like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, “the magazine of the progressive evangelical community,” and “that Baptist seminary graduate Bill Moyers.”
Then, in December 2007, Harper’s ran an article by David Lewis and Philip Kitcher titled “And Lead Us Not,” which was promoted on the contents page by the provocative, mean-spirited question, “Are Christians Evil?” The authors wondered if “Christians [who] accept a God who inflicts infinite torment on those who do not accept Him…are those who worship the perpetrator of divine evil themselves evil.”
Harper’s surely is not alone in its digs against Bible-honoring, evangelical Christians. In the December 2007 issue of Atlantic, Hanna Rosin’s article, “How Hollywood Saved God,” spoke of the relationship between Christians and Hollywood, noting the success of many Christian-themed movies. Was hers, then, a positive report? Not so fast.
The author concluded, “The studios now seem to view the Christian market as it would a difficult girlfriend: elusive and hard to please; ultimately, you keep your distance but still take pains not to irritate her.” Apparently, the mainstream press does not even exercise the same minimal effort “not to irritate” Christians as Hollywood does (an industry that itself has been a notorious critic of biblical Christianity). There has never been a courtship between evangelicals and the major media. In fact, the opposite is true. The press seems to be screaming for a nasty divorce from a relationship that never existed.
And the slander against conservative evangelicalism marches on. In the May 20, 2008, online magazine Salon.com, Gary Kamiya wrote an article with the outlandish title “Psycho Christians and the Media.” The gist was that Republican presidential candidate John McCain was wrong to align himself with certain Christian television preachers. And Kamiya described the beliefs of a host of recognizable evangelical leaders as “right-wing religious deviancy,” “whacked-out,” and “Christian-right insanity.”
The faith of Bible-believing Christians was held up as an example of “extreme, even demented beliefs.” One wonders why such hostility was never levied against Obama’s mentor and pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, a religious leader whose views epitomize the very definition of extremism. The answer is because much of the press is quick to forgive or simply ignore liberal mis-steps, while it gathers rocks to stone evangelical conservatives.
The Response From Pilloried Pilgrims
It is inconceivable that any other demographic group in America would have to withstand the militant slander that conservative, evangelical Christians receive. Most shocking of all is that the mainstream press, which often touts itself as the advocate of objectivity and defender of the oppressed, has ignored its own outrageous, anti-Christian bias and vitriol.
Books have been written about it. Two by Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World Magazine, were published in 1988. Then, a little more than a decade later, former New York Daily News reporter William Proctor came out with The Gospel According to The New York Times, where he showed how that newspaper’s liberal bias is, in fact, a carefully thought-out worldview that permeates its pages.
So how do we respond to this tidal wave of media misrepresentation and manipulation? Proctor had a suggestion. He urged Americans to be more discerning when reading newspapers and magazines and watching the news. Unfortunately, we now need to assume the major news organizations have a left-leaning, antievangelical, antibiblical worldview. We should dissect the news and become aware of language that subtly slants things against Bible-believing Christians while affirming those who denounce us.
We also must oppose the tyranny of a biased media. Let your voice be heard. Write letters to the editor. Call radio and television talk shows. But before doing so, pray for wisdom and a winsome witness. And do your home-work. Know what you are talking about before you talk about it in public. Realize also that Christians are held to a higher standard. Accept that challenge, and do everything zealously for the glory of God, giving no offense but seeking “the profit of many” through your witness (1 Cor. 10:33).
We also need to support the Christian media, much of which is struggling now in times of great economic turmoil.
The late Christian theologian Francis Schaeffer observed that the turning point in the breakdown of the American culture was chronicled by a media report in the 1930s. Then, both the “defrocking” of the great Christian apologist Dr. J. Gresham Machen and the Northern Presbyterian Church’s division over liberalism versus biblical orthodoxy became front-page news across the nation.
Schaeffer said the events marked the apostate drift of many Protestant denominations away from biblical truth and toward the humanism of the age. This drift has created a spiritual void in many of America’s churches. Their failure to remain anchored to biblical truth is pushing America toward the rocks and shoals of a godless worldview.6 Schaeffer mourned the fact that even the Christian press seemed impotent to raise a voice against this shift:
Has the Christian press exposed the real implications of this world view? One Christian magazine came out with the conclusion that the concern over secular humanism and its resulting impact on society was only a bogeyman. Rightly defined, secular humanism….is a vicious enemy….Humanism is the defiant denial of the God who is there, with Man defiantly set up in the place of God as the measure of all things.7
Those of us in the Christian media have a profound responsibility. We are watchers on the wall. God forbid that we abdicate this position. It would be easy to become negative and bitter about the betrayal by America’s media and its biased treatment of Christians. But our focus, like King David who was unjustly slandered by his enemies, must be on God who alone is worthy of absolute and uncompromising praise and glory. Though he had been utterly maligned, here is how David concluded the matter: “My tongue shall speak of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long” (Ps. 35:28).
- Joseph Cummins, Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises in U.S. Presidential Campaigns (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2007), 92.
- Paul Kengor, God and George W. Bush: A Spiritual Life, cited in Tom Strode, “Election-year controversy over expressions of faith caused by cultural divide, Land says,” Baptist Press, September 13, 2004 <sbcbaptistpress.org/bpnews.asp?id=19082>.
- Brian Friel, Richard E. Cohen, and Kirk Victor, “National Journal’s 2007 Vote Ratings: Obama: Most Liberal Senator in 2007,” January 31, 2008 <http://nj.nationaljournal.com/voteratings>.
- Bill Moyers, “There Is No Tomorrow,” January 30, 2005 <informationclearinghouse.info/article7960.htm>.
- Francis Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1984), 34–35.
- Ibid., 105.