Monday, April 17, 2006

Christocrats School BJ Reporters

So here I go after that entreaty, biting the hand that will not feed me by talking junk about the BJ. I read Saturday's Oplinger and Willard piece on the Reverends Russell Johnson and Rod Parsley. I scratched my head. I read it again. I scratched my head again. Yesterday morning I pulled a quote out of it for part of a church service and looked it over again. I just don’t get it.

Oplinger and Willard are my favorite BJ reporters. In their education pieces they routinely break down the complexities of the school funding system accurately and understandably which, trust me, is a daunting task. They have consistently provided the best education reporting in the State for as long as I've been following the issue.

So I'm wondering why the Parsley/Johnson profile is so lame. It sounds exactly like the piece they would like to see; like the piece their PR firm would try to plant. It reads like the two subjects weren’t asked any questions, but just given a tape recorder to talk into. Why did the BJ need to charge two of the its star reporters with transcribing it? It’s almost like they’ve read Boring Made Dull’s criticisms and thrown him a bone. But we know that wouldn’t happen.

It’s not like the portrait is all warm and fuzzy. In fact, I found some of the quotes quite chilling. But they were able to be only as harsh as they wanted to. They were not confronted with their most outrageous statements – Parsley’s claim that Islam is a cult borne of a demon’s deceptions of Mohammed, for example. Though Parsley has repeated it all over the place, his Christocrats gloss doesn’t appear anywhere. Didn’t focus group test too well, Rod?

They also weren’t pressed on where all this ends. One of the most disturbing quotes to me this one on Johnson:

He blames America's bad behavior on three groups: the secular left, the religious left and passive Christians who are more interested in ``being loved'' than speaking truth.
As a card-carrying member of the Religious Left – and one with secular leanings at that – I wonder if my family I have a place in Russell Johnson’s ideal world. And if not, how far would he go in trying to wedge me into the place I don’t fit? Does he ultimately believe in a return to blue laws? To heresy trials? He believes in “God in the schools.” Who gets to teach my daughters about God? Who writes the prayers they have to say? If he gets all the laws passed and there is still “bad behavior” (which he’s never forced to define, by the way), what then? Can he promise me that this ends somewhere short of Christian re-education camps?

And most importantly, why aren’t these questions being asked? These guys take on one issue at a time and the media act like that’s it; win or lose they'll be quiet after this. They mention Intelligent Design, but we all know they aren’t satisfied with ID. They want schools to teach Young-Earth Creationism exclusively. Why aren’t they forced to admit it?

Most of all, why aren’t they pressed on their anti-gay agenda? After all, we have in the gay marriage an example of an issue from which they have moved on. 2004, gay marriage ban. This year, gay adoption ban. Where does this end? Responsible journalists should have asked.

Parsley and Johnson also have free reign with the facts. They both get to wrap themselves up in the First Amendment, without anyone from the groups that filed the IRS complaint getting to point out the sophistry of the argument. Parsley claims

And after spending billions of government dollars on welfare for 40 years, he
said, ``there are more poor Americans than ever, there are more disadvantaged
than ever, there are more of our children going to bed hungry every night than
Two minutes on Google later and I find this:

But Parsley's personal fact sheet is the only source in the story.

Fred Clark at slactivist is my favorite blogger anywhere on any subject. A liberal Evangelical Christian, he frequently raises the point that journalists generally know little about religion and therefore report it badly. That’s clear here. Not only do they fail to press these guys on ID vs. Creationism, they never ask about End-Times theology.

A vein of thought runs through Evangelical America that, because we are living in the End of Days, there is no need to improve living conditions here on earth. In fact, some say that Christians should be working to secure the conditions set forth in the prophesies and bring on the final conflict. That’s why, for example, they are so exercised about Isreal’s withdrawal from Gaza. These guys are influencing elections and advising candidates. Shouldn’t we know where they stand on this?

As I read the above, it sounds alarmist. Frankly, I’m alarmed. But if Johnson and Parsley actually respect my rights in some way, Oplinger and Willard did them a disservice by failing to press them on ultimate questions so that those reassurances came out. In any event, they certainly did a disservice to the rest of us.


Anonymous said...

I, too, thought it was a terribly soft piece. Even the subhead arrangement was soft.

54cermak said...

Makes you wonder what they would have written about Hitler or Mussolini in 1930?