Our Media & The Blessed Rape Baby
Kevin Drum writes that he’s glad (as a liberal partisan) to see the GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock catch hell for his statement that a baby conceived in a rape is “a gift from God,” but acknowledges that Mourdock’s view — that human life is sacred no matter how it comes into being — is conventional Christian theology. Excerpt:
What I find occasionally odd is that so many conventional bits of theology like this are so controversial if someone actually mentions them in public. God permits evil. My faith is the only true one. People of other faiths are doomed to spend eternity in Hell. Etc. There’s a lot of stuff like this which is either explicit or implied in sects of all kinds, and at an abstract level we all know it. Somehow, though, when someone actually says it, it’s like they farted in church. Weird.
Well, it’s only weird if you don’t recognize the distinction between the “we” that is the American press corps (and the political class writ large) and the “we” that is the American people as a whole. Yes, there is a natural pluralistic politesse around questions of religion that normally discourages public figures from Mourdock-like musings, and a general American tendency to efface theological differences and downplay hard teachings in favor of a genial syncretism and a gospel of health and wealth. But there’s also a much more specific phenomenon at work here, which is that the people who live and work in New York and Washington are generally much more secular and socially liberal than the country that they cover, and this disconnect inevitably has an impact on what kinds of statements the press treats as “shocking” and “extreme,” and what kinds of positioning it treats as mainstream and respectable.
This can’t be emphasized strongly enough. Remember too that newsrooms, especially elite newsrooms, are a bubble culture; many of the people who work inside them struggle to imagine that their views are not wholly normative in this country. Actually, they don’t struggle, which is the problem.
Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion complains that the news media’s ignorance of religion means that they don’t understand the basic theological category of theodicy (that is, how to reconcile belief in an all-good, all-powerful God with the existence of evil). Journalists, she says, ought to do some basic reading in foundational Judaism and Christianity, if only so they will get a rudimentary idea of how Jews and Christians think about God, good, and evil. She writes:
We’re hoping to end up around Genesis 50:20. In the preceding chapters, we learn about Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons. His brothers really hated him and were filled with jealousy so they conspired to kill him before deciding instead to sell him into slavery. Jacob, believing Joseph had been killed, was left in anguish and grieving.
Joseph somehow becomes the most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh. He does all sorts of wise and judicious things and saves all sorts of people from a brutal famine. Long story short, he ends up meeting up with his long-lost brothers again. They are really worried that he’s going to react poorly. And so:
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” is one of the most well-known passages in Scripture. The teaching that God causes good to result from evil is just basic, basic, basic stuff.
But beyond the ability of our culturally liberal news media to grasp.
Ross goes on to say that President Obama’s permissive abortion views are actually outside the American mainstream, but he is never called on them or asked to explain them in any way by the press, because they share his opinions. Trevin Wax has a list of questions pro-choice politicians are never asked by the media. For example:
You describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not morally objectionable, then why is it tragic? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?
Me, I don’t expect reporters to agree with my side on abortion. But I do expect them to try to understand why we believe what we believe, and to report fairly about it. I also would like a pony.