Faith

8 Mainstream Media Attacks on Conservative Christianity in 2017

Image via Shutterstock, the New York Times headquarters.

Conservative Christians dodged a bullet when Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in 2016, but the mainstream media kept up constant attacks against them. Sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, many media outlets presented a smug anti-Christian face, playing into prejudices that conservative Christians are hateful or stupid.

Media outlets should report on negative stories about conservative Christians, just as they should for any religious group. This is not a plea for special treatment, but a list of (sometimes unintentional) attacks that eeeeproved particularly egregious in the past year.

Without further ado, here are ten times the mainstream media attacked conservative Christians or twisted stories against them in 2017.

1. “Jesus is a fiction” — on Christmas.

Washington Post anti-Jesus Christmas tweet.

Twitter screenshot of a Washington Post tweet suggesting Jesus didn’t exist — on Christmas.

The Washington Post engaged in a particularly petty act on Christmas Day 2017. While Christians around the world were celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ — which likely did not take place on December 25, but is celebrated then anyway — the Post shared an old op-ed on social media suggesting Jesus was a fictional character.

The article is flat-out false: historians outside the Bible mentioned Jesus, and it is absurd to suggest that the Man did not exist when historical accounts of His life date back to less than 40 years after His death. Furthermore, the gospels are reliable historical accounts. Even if they were dismissed, there is evidence in Jewish and Roman sources that Jesus existed.

By presenting a debunked article attempting to undercut the very center of Christianity on Christmas Day, The Washington Post suggested not only that Christians are stupid to believe a fictional story, but that their holiday is pointless.

2. ABC & NBC called Alliance Defending Freedom a “hate group.”

In July, ABC News and NBC News published articles about Attorney General Jeff Sessions meeting with a “hate group,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF is a prominent Christian legal organization that defends religious liberty, among other things. The group has won seven cases at the U.S. Supreme Court in the last seven years, and is currently defending Colorado baker Jack Phillips before the Supreme Court.

Even so, ADF has been branded an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization currently facing three lawsuits for branding mainstream organizations “hate groups.” The SPLC actually cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church in branding one group an “anti-LGBT hate group,” and continued to present new reasons to list Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz ase an “anti-Muslim extremist.” For a time, the website justified this label on the grounds that Nawaz visited a strip club at his bachelor party.

The SPLC’s hate labeling led directly to a terrorist attack against the Family Research Council (FRC). In 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II entered the building with a firearm and Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches, intending to kill everyone in the building. He confessed that he found the organization on the SPLC’s hate map.

“For ABC News to essentially cut and paste false charges against Alliance Defending Freedom by a radically left-wing, violence-inciting organization like Southern Poverty Law Center is a discredit to ABC News and to the profession,” Kerri Kupec, ADF legal counsel and director of communications, said in a statement at the time. Neither ABC News nor NBC News noted the 2012 terror attack in their stories.

3. CNN shared the SPLC hate map.

In August, CNN endorsed the SPLC’s hate map — the same map that inspired Corkins’ attack — on its website and on social media. The site presented the map as an unbiased listing of all hate groups in the U.S., despite the fact that FRC and ADF are still plotted on the map.

Indeed, there is a plausible connection between the SPLC and James Hodgkinson, the man who shot House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) this past summer. Hodgkinson, a Bernie Sanders supporter, “liked” the SPLC on Facebook.

4. “We’re going to punish the wicked.”

Tim Gill, an openly homosexual LGBT megadonor, repeated a line that has become something of a mantra for him — “we’re going to punish the wicked” — in an interview with Rolling Stone. Who did he mean by “the wicked”? Conservative Christians who refuse to celebrate a same-sex wedding.

Gill rightly condemned discrimination against LGBT people, but insisted that the desire to opt out of serving a same-sex wedding — refusing to bake a cake for one, or refusing to offer a church as the venue for one — constitutes this discrimination, rather than an exercise of free speech or religious freedom. The current Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission illustrates this divide well.

Gill’s comments were his own and did not represent Rolling Stone, but the story did not end there. Conservative outlets reported that Gill’s comments involved targeting Christians who would disagree with same-sex marriage. Rolling Stone reporter Andy Kroll attacked this idea as “complete nonsense” — and his editors approved this response.

While the original story did not spell out Gill’s intent to “target Christians” in so many words, Gill’s references to “discrimination” and punishing “the wicked” did suggest this in context. These “nondiscrimination” efforts have involved punishing Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman, Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, Michigan farmers Steve and Bridget Tennes, Colorado baker Jack Philips, and many others.

In publishing Kroll’s response, Rolling Stone did not only endorse the idea that Stutzman, the Kleins, the Tenneses, and Phillips have no right to refuse to serve a same-sex wedding. The paper also tarred conservative Christians concerned with these efforts to “punish the wicked.”

5. Amy Coney Barrett.

In September, Senate Democrats attacked federal judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett, suggesting she was unqualified to serve on the bench because “the dogma lives loudly within you.” During that hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) compared ADF to Pol Pot while questioning Barrett.

The New York Times took up the call, with reporter Laurie Goldstein making the case that a Roman Catholic could not be trusted as an impartial public servant because of a loyalty oath. Sound familiar? Suspicion that Catholics would obey the pope rather than the American people long drove opposition to Catholics in politics.

Barrett joined a small Christian group called People of Praise, which Goldstein presented as a fringe sect that would “surprise” many faithful Catholics. Pope Francis named a member of this group auxiliary bishop of Portland in 2014, however. It seems this New York Times reporter joined the effort to undermine a Trump nominee, based primarily on her faith.

6. The Handmaid’s Tale.

In April, Hulu released the series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a show based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. This harrowing story presented a world in which a vague Christian-like sect takes over America, deprives women of all rights, and requires them to be ceremonially raped to have children.

Various liberals — mostly in the abortion camp — have compared pro-life legislation to efforts at bringing about “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Lauren Duca, a freelance writer praised by Hillary Clinton, suggested evangelicals want to “figure out how to do ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ IRL.” While this kind of dystopia is the last thing any biblical or conservative Christian wants, liberals have presented it as the ultimate goal of the Religious Right.

Various reviews in The Washington Post and The New York Times have suggested that the series was “timely” and had “an unexpected resonance in Trump’s America.” While abortion activists may be threatened by Trump, suggesting that the president or the evangelicals who helped elect him are in any way inspired or motivated by “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a false offensive screed.

7. Canaanites.

In July, the American Journal of Human Genetics published a study connecting modern-day Lebanese people with the biblical Canaanites. Various outlets reported that this study disproved the Bible, when in fact the Bible never claims that the Canaanites were wiped out.

While God did command the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites, they failed to do so, something God angrily pointed out in Judges 2.

Even so, The Washington Post joined in the fake news, reporting, “Now a study of Canaanite DNA, published Thursday in the American Journal of Human Genetics, rules out the biblical idea that an ancient war wiped out the group.” Again, the Bible never claims the Canaanites were wiped out.

Reporting that a study disproved the Bible seems an attempt to discredit Christians. The fact that this study backed up the Bible actually ended up discrediting the media.

8. Christian opposition to abortion.

In May, Nicholas Kristof took to the New York Times to argue that “conservative Christianity’s ferocious opposition to abortion is relatively new in historical terms.” He referenced the short-lived pro-abortion activism among Southern Baptists in the 1960s and 1970s. Most insidiously, the Times columnist claimed that the Bible does not mention abortion.

The Bible does condemn abortion, however. In Galatians 5:20, St. Paul listed a catalogue of sins, including pharmakeia, the making and administering of potions. In Revelation 21:8, St. John the Evangelist condemned “sexual immorality,” and then he immediately went on to condemn pharmakois, the plural of that same word.

While the word is often translated “sorcery” or “witchcraft,” Alvin J. Schmidt, in his book How Christianity Changed the World, noted that “it is quite likely that when Paul used the word pharmakeia in Galatians, he meant the practice of abortion, because administering medicinal potions was a common way of inducing abortions among the Greco-Romans.”

Early Christians emphatically condemned abortion, along with infanticide and child abandonment, all common practices in the ancient Roman world. They founded orphanages to adopt unwanted children, leaving a lasting legacy. They were pro-life before genetics discovered that a separate individual comes into existence at the moment of conception.

By suggesting that conservative Christians have only recently opposed abortion, and that the Bible does not condemn it, Kristof suggested that conservative Christians who oppose abortion are out of step with their heritage. Nothing could be further from the truth.