After Donald Trump won the presidency in a surprise upset, thanks in large part to evangelical Christians, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet admitted, “I think that the New York-based and Washington-based too probably, media powerhouses don’t quite get religion. We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives. And I think we can do much, much better.”
Talk about an understatement! Sadly, it seems the legacy media still hasn’t gotten the message.
At the time Baquet made his admission, I noted some recent egregious examples from The Times. The paper’s writers and editors proved surprisingly illiterate about basic matters of Christianity. For instance, Jesus isn’t buried in a tomb, Easter is not about Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and — perhaps most egregious — the book of Romans doesn’t call for the execution of gay people.
In September 2016, the Times’ Nicholas Kristof asked “What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?” which is much less interesting a question than “What Denomination Would Jesus Belong To?” PJ Media’s own John Ellis answered Kristof’s question simply and directly: “Jesus would be the religion that bears his name – CHRISTianity.”
Yet it seems President Donald Trump’s nomination of 7th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has revealed even more ignorance of basic Christian doctrines.
Astounding ignorance of Christianity
Washington Post book critic Ray Charles suggested that there was something nefarious to Barrett’s statement that she intends to pursue “the kingdom of God.” On the contrary, the “kingdom of God” is a common Christian phrase that has more to do with loving your neighbor as yourself than bringing about some kind of theocracy.
The “kingdom of God” is a common theme in the Old and New Testaments. The prophet Daniel envisioned a future in which the God of Heaven would establish a kingdom that would forever abide (Daniel 2:44). The prophet Zechariah predicted that “the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9).
Perhaps most importantly, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Only after these two petitions does Jesus tell His disciples to pray for their daily bread and for forgiveness from their sins. This prayer, known as “The Lord’s Prayer,” is common to all Christian denominations. It is one of the most basic features of Christianity.
Similarly, Newsweek ran a story claiming that Barrett belonged to a secret cult-like organization that inspired Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale. In truth, the pentecostal group to which Barrett belonged, People of Praise, had no connection with People of Hope, the group Atwood seized upon. Newsweek corrected the story but did not retract it.
On Monday, the Associated Press ran a “damning” story about People of Praise, noting that the group “holds men are divinely ordained as the ‘head’ of the family and faith.” Oh, my! Someone get an upside-down cross, we’ve discovered a group of those nefarious subversives, Christians!!
In book after book of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul describes a husband as the “head” of his wife. As the most cursory reading of the Bible suggests, however, this does not grant husbands blanket authority to oppress their wives. Quite the opposite.
In Ephesians 5, Paul does teach that “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.” Yet, a few verses later, the apostle adds, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave up himself for her … In the same way husbands should love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:23, 25, 28). Husbands are called to model Jesus’ self-sacrifice in the way they love their wives, placing their wives’ good above their own.
As Ed Morrisey noted over at HotAir, The New York Times‘ Elizabeth Bruenig warned against Roman Catholicism, claiming that there is a centuries-old conflict “between Catholicism and the American ethos.”
Bruenig focused on exemptions from “anti-discrimination” laws on issues like LGBT activism and abortion.
Yet, as Morrisey rightly noted, Catholics are far from alone in seeking exemptions to laws that push abortion and LGBT orthodoxy on religious Americans who disagree. He noted that Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC (2012) involved ministerial exemptions for a Lutheran school, not a Catholic school. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (2018) also did not involve Roman Catholics, just a Christian baker who refused to use his artistic efforts to celebrate a same-sex wedding.
“In short, Bruenig accidentally demonstrates an animus, if not a bigotry, that goes beyond Catholicism. It extends to all Christians by her own use of examples, even if Bruenig seems unaware of it, and truly to all faith,” Morrisey argued.
The roots of this ignorance
This animus against conservative religious believers — which very much includes orthodox Christians and faithful Roman Catholics — helps explain the ignorance. Many elites look down on Christianity as ill-informed, perhaps even malicious. If Christians are the backward anti-science bigots who deny evolution, same-sex marriage, transgender identity, and more because they’re just so darn stuck in their ways, why take pains to understand what they believe?
In the book So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? sociology professors George Yancey and David Williamson painstakingly document the presence of bias against conservative Christians, proving that it is as real as animus against Muslims and Jews. Indeed, Yancey’s most recent research shows that animus against Christians leads some people to support LGBT activism, even when they have a low opinion of LGBT people.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has branded conservative Christian nonprofits like Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and FRC “hate groups” due to their beliefs on marriage and sexuality, listing them along with the Ku Klux Klan. ADF has won nine Supreme Court cases in seven years. A terrorist attempted to kill everyone at FRC, thanks to the SPLC’s “hate map.”
The SPLC also marked the small Catholic charity the Ruth Institute a “hate group,” citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a “hate” document.
The SPLC is quite mainstream. Big Tech companies like Amazon use it to screen out “hate groups.” Schools across America receive its “Teaching Tolerance” materials. Democratic senators have cited the SPLC to demonize Trump’s administration and judicial appointees. In once case, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said of Amy Coney Barrett, “The dogma lives loudly” within her so she can’t be trusted. In another, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that Russell Vought is “really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about,” because he thinks Muslims do not go to heaven.
This animus drives a great deal of my work and I wrote Making Hate Pay to try to counter the SPLC because I see that organization as the tip of the spear on this issue. The legacy media is astoundingly ignorant about Christianity because many American elites are disdainful of traditional religion, and many of them trust the SPLC because it reinforces their biases. Christians need to clear up misconceptions about what we believe because misinformation about us and animus against us is rife.
As anti-religious people continue to dominate elite culture, it’s only likely to get worse.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.