The following comes from an April 15 posting by Carl Cannon on Real Clear Politics.
…Although the number fluctuates, some 40 percent of the American people describe themselves as evangelical Christians. Yet in traditional U.S. news organizations, print or broadcast, such believers are a rarity. The news coverage tends to reflect this disconnect. Evangelicals are often dismissed, particularly in political reporting, as exotic; or, worse, as a menace to civil society.
Traditionally, the people covering religion knew what they were talking about, at least. And presumably, they exerted a leavening influence inside their newsrooms. But Biblical literacy isn’t necessarily a requirement for that beat anymore; meanwhile, newsroom budget cuts have decimated the ranks of the nation’s religion writers.
The upshot during Holy Week this year was a spate of news reports so inaccurate and off-key that they comprised a kind of impromptu “Gong Show.”
In the not so distant past, the installation of the first-ever pontiff from the Americas would have been hailed in the press — and not only by Catholic reporters — as a momentous breakthrough. There was some of that coverage when Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio ascended to the papacy last month. There was also this: a Huffington Post headline blasting the new pope’s opposition to gay marriage, abortion, and contraception — longtime Catholic doctrine, in other words — accompanied by this kicker: “Accused of Conspiring with Murderous Junta in Priest Kidnapping.”
In the new media environment, a sole source who alleges that Pope Francis was too cozy with the murderous generals who controlled Argentina in the 1970s gets equal billing with persecuted priests who were actually aided by that future pope and a Human Rights Watch report dismissing the allegation against him as untrue.
These days, even when the best news organizations attempt to cover religion insightfully and sensitively, Bible illiteracy taints the effort. On Easter, “CBS Sunday Morning” aired a deeply respectful 7½-minute segment on the Virgin Mary. But that report was marred by the erroneous declaration by the reporter that John the Baptist was present at Jesus’ crucifixion.
Easter Sunday was also flummoxing editors at the New York Times. In its coverage of Francis’ first papal address, the Times wrote the following paragraph:
“Easter is the celebration of the resurrection into heaven of Jesus, three days after he was crucified, the premise for the Christian belief in an everlasting life. In urging peace, Francis called on Jesus to ‘change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.’”
The first sentence, perhaps added by an editor in the home office, is wrong, as numerous readers pointed out. If three major theological errors in a 27-word sentence isn’t a record, it ought to be. And in its ensuing correction, the Times’ corrected only one of them, thus opening itself to ridicule.
The correction reads as follows: “An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the Christian holiday of Easter. It is the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, not his resurrection into heaven.”)
Well, no. First of all, Christians believe that Jesus “ascended” into heaven, not “was resurrected” into heaven. Secondly, the Gospels tell us that this happened 40 days after Easter, not three days after the crucifixion. Finally, many Christian scholars would quibble with the idea that everlasting life was an unfamiliar concept in Israel at the time Jesus preached there….
The Times’ uncertain grasp prompted the religion-themed website Patheos to post one wag’s spoof of the paper’s correction:
“In last Thursday’s story,’Americans excited to visit ‘ball parks,”‘ the sport of baseball was repeatedly spelled bayspall. The number of ‘bases’ was given as five; the correct number is three. ‘Home plate’ is a marker embedded in the ground, not a trophy awarded to the winner of the World Series. ‘Babe’ Ruth was the popular nickname of George Herman Ruth Jr. (1895–1948), generally regarded the greatest baseballer of the early twentieth century, and not the African-American mistress of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter F. O’Malley, as stated in the article. The Times regrets the errors.”
Inadvertently providing his own comic relief, a couple of days later radio host Don Imus claimed in an exchange with liberal columnist Kirsten Powers that “hundreds of gospels” were written, including one by Judas. “There’s an indication there,” Imus added, “that Jesus may have been gay.”
Imus’ oddball theories were passed along by an unskeptical Huffington Post — notwithstanding the fact that the two theologians it consulted dismissed the notion. HuffPo also identified Powers as a “conservative,” apparently on the basis of her part-time gig as a Fox News commentator.
A minor mistake, to be sure. Or was it? In the days ahead, Kirsten Powers would be at the heart of an intramural fight in journalism, one that would reveal the limitations of our secularism. This was a heated debate over the coverage — or dearth of coverage — of the murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. And this time the stakes were life and death.
To read the entire post, click here.
Correcting errors is a large part of the New Evangelization. Errors are widespread. We should not mock or ridicule but simply give the correct information and add a little more that might lead someone to (or back to) Christ and His Church.
Since when has anybody taken the NY Times or the Huff Post seriously? Accuracy and objectivity have never been high on their priority list.
Anyone who has run for Office and is true to the Constitution can tell you that the rules or laws governing “printed retractions” needs to be strengthened and better defined.
That is also how we got the so called new rules on “Meatless Fridays”, “Altar Girls”. “Women covering their heads in church” etc. etc. ad nauseam!
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
Usually a erroneous story is Front Page, large headlines, and the mandatory retraction is way in the back of the paper and small headlines if any. The retraction should be mandated to be in the same location and print size as the original false story!
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
I think I missed the point: What does ordinary reporters’ ignorance have to do with whether I eat meat on Fridays, or what women wear to Mass?
As for legislation on errors and retractions, it doesn’t matter anymore what is on the NYT front page because so few people read it. And that’s not because they disagree culturally with the NYT, but because “same location and print size” has no meaning in the online news format, nor in 24-hour constantly cycling cable news. In the modern news-dissemination environment, media fact checkers, Google and Wikipedia have taken over the role of fact checking. All the fact-checking in the world is only as effective as the ability of citizens to think critically and question what they read.
The Bible should be taught in all schools because it is a cultural marker and is need to understand our culture.
Helen, that’s just a rationalization to get Caesar to teach us about God. I fail to see the wisdom in empowering Caesar to teach us about God, when all he’s going to do with the loot is raise troops in Gaul and cross the Rubicon.
As long as the government controls the schools, do you really think they’ll hire people like you to teach those courses? Or, will they hire someone from a “progressive” Christian Church that has validated gay marriage—among other things?
If the government can create monolithic though when it comes to social issues, why do you think they will behave any differently if they start teaching the Bible?
What kind of college did you attend, JonJ, because you imply that students believe whatever a professor tells them. Having Bible courses in college may well bring some true knowledge and faith to the professor. You are consistently harping for Caesar and trying to disguise it as promoting the Church.
Skai, try using your brain. Obviously, professors can talk about religion at the University level. For one, many professors have tenure.
The only issue with respect to public education is the secondary school level and below. As for me constantly harping for Caesar—the truth is that I am not someone that uses religion as a vicarious excuse to force others to think like me.
The fact is, the mark of a fake Christian is one who wishes to seize state power to make others bend to his will, all while pretending they are doing it for God. Such hypocrits achieve nothing other than warp religion, such as the so-called “faithful” men who ran the Spanish Inquisition.
Your constant desire to force others bend to your will reveals much about your character.
The Bible can be taught in all public schools from a historical standpoint, but not from a religious point of view.
It would have to be taught has history.
This story is written by an Evangelical Christian. God love ’em, but the Evangelical world view isn’t a Catholic perspective. It isn’t always anti-Catholic (as it was a few decades ago), and many Catholics hold the same literalist interpretation of holy scripture as most Evangelicals, but it isn’t Catholic or catholic either. Confusion about which John was present at the Crucifixion is not all that uncommon among Catholics, as is confusion about Mary who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and Mary Magdalene, the difference between dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth, and so on. Such confusion might be shocking to an Evangelical, but it should produce no more than a smile and perhaps a kind word from a Catholic who happens to be “in the know.” Our Faith isn’t about details, but about faith in God enfleshed in the person of Jesus, not about where the resurrection “went” or on which day of the week the Last Supper took place, but about how we celebrate the resurrection by following Jesus’ command to “do this.”
News organizations frequently mangle information they don’t understand. Stories about science (especially physics and biology) get just as routinely twisted as stories about religion. Isn’t it wonderful, that we still have the opportunity to smile, suggest to an unevangelized conversation partner that Christianity isn’t quite what he thinks it is, and maybe share our faith? Who knows what God could set in motion in such an encounter!
Here we go with Francis theology, one more boring junket for making Scripture into mince meat. Francis has no faith, nor do the others in his school of pseudo-thought. Francis, why don’t you try to gain some faith in Christ before explaining how meaningless the Bible is?
Bravo Skai! You certainly parsed out that “in the know” nonsense. This is another prideful case of a Jack of all theologies but an ace of none.
He who stands for nothing falls for everything!
Skai and Catherine:
I don’t understand your comment. Perhaps you mis-parsed what I wrote? What is it you think makes the bible meaningless? What I meant by “in the know” is someone who knows which John was at the foot of the cross, who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair, what is meant by the Immaculate Conception, etc. Presumably both of you are totally in the know on all of these. All of the confusions I quoted came from actual, ordinary Mass-every-Sunday Catholics.
Francis, your post implies that you believe that you are the Bible. You generalize everything as if there is only one perspective; this sort of thing bespeaks of a six year old mindset. Francis, it is time you moved forward a bit.
“…the Gospels tell us that this happened 40 days after Easter.” Actually, that’s in the Acts of the Apostles. Seems like the author could use a course on biblical literacy himself.
Do you really want to get into argument about whether Acts is the second half of Luke’s gospel or an independent book? It is clearly a narrative, clearly written by the same author as Luke. This fits the usual understanding of “gospel.” More to the point I tried to post earlier, if we reduce Faith to knowledge of what was written in which scripture, or make it about an ability to cleverly quote the scripture to support whatever viewpoint we hold, haven’t we completely lost the Faith?
Francis, why would you presume that everyone should see the Gospel exactly as you do?
So, Dave N., to you the Book of Acts has a different truth than the Gospel books, and therefore, less authority, right?
No, just another case of pot and kettle.
Then, Dave N., why are you focused on the soot?
Well, Dave N., you have on one hand the four Gospels, on the other hand the Fifth Gospel, and yet also the Gospels and the Gospel. Don’t you realize that it is all the same but from different perspectives? There is only one Gospel.
CCC: ” 81 “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”
“And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.”
CCC: ” 107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.”
There are many paragraphs in the CCC on Sacred Scripture, and Holy Tradition.
CCC: ” 82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”