Monday, 3/3/14

    1. Dumb, Uneducated, Eager to Deceive
    2. Achieving Introspection
    3. God’s Politics
    4. Ukraine
    5. Diversity: Oh, the horror!
    6. When Conservatives were simplistic

1

M.Z. Hemingway has hit one out of the park: Dumb, Uneducated and Eager to Deceive: Media Coverage of Religious Freedom in a Nutshell. The subtitle (or is that the part after the colon?) is “Most Reporters Are Simply Too Ignorant to Handle The Job.” It’s not a short read. People on my side will feel outrage; journalists, if they read it, should feel shame, but won’t, because they’re incorrigibly ignorant.

Her lede speculates that “journalists care about freedom of speech and of the press because they practice them. And journalists don’t care about freedom of religion because they don’t.” If that seems unfair (I can imagine our local editorial page editor assuring me that his family regularly attends Church), try this. “What I’ve learned from the internet in the last couple days is that, if something isn’t against your religion, it’s apparently not against mine either.” Or, as I can imagine our local fella “thinking,” “If I believe it deeply, then it’s rational, not religious.”

You know we’re in trouble when you see what gets scare quotes in media and what doesn’t, and thus know whose characterization “neutral” media are following. For instance:

  • Abortion rights
  • Anti-gay
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Homophobe (mostly in opinion pieces)
  • “Religious liberty” (from Religion News Service, no less)
  • “Freedom” to discriminate

The immediate occasion for Ms. Hemingway’s summary was this week’s revealing (it revealed the GOP establishment as perfidious) SSM feeding frenzy in Arizona.

Maybe the best synopsis on that sorry spectacle is this vignette:

One journalist who shares my dismay at how this story was covered sent me a link to one Los Angeles Times story with this amazing sentence buried after a half-dozen passages claiming various things about the bill being “anti-gay”:

Technically, the bill would have expanded the definition of the free exercise of religion, allowing a faithful person to adhere to his or her beliefs in practice.

You don’t say. Of course, perhaps the most telling line even there is “in practice.” As opposed to where? In his or her head?

I recall in a debate (one I shouldn’t have taken on; my gay adversary lived and breathed the stuff and did improv comedy avocationally) being asked to explain what I meant about the difference between “homosexual orientation” and “homosexual practice.” I gullibly tried to explain the obviously, naïvely assuming the sincerity (if cluelessness) of the question. He shot back “Well, what do you think it means to be gay!?”

I’ve been guarded about believing gay Christians who assure me that “gay” is just an orientation, not a practice, ever since. The term is clearly equivocal, if you don’t mind an oxymoronic characterization. We need a clearer vocabulary or we’re not necessarily achieving actual disagreement versus contentiousness.

Meanwhile, what does the LA Times reporter think it means to adhere to a religious belief? We don’t need a Free Exercise clause if all it protects is between the ears.

Hemingway goes on and on. In the spirit of yesterday’s closer, I’ll let you discover it yourself if you wish. Suffice that I’m even more convinced now that mainstream journalism is an unreliable source of basic facts, let alone of significance – which puts us in a bind because I know no consistently reliable non-mainstream media for basic reporting.

Have I mentioned lately that one of the blessings of having become Orthodox is an appreciation that reviling, persecution and slander with all manner of evil against Christians falsely, for Christ’s sake, is the ordinary historic lot of Christians? That I predict it, and warn people to prepare, does not mean I despair. “Been there, done that,” at least via my spiritual ancestors.

I only wish more self-styled Christians didn’t fold so easily when they face that, and hope that I can hold up if when it gets much worse.

2

Credit where credit is due. The press locally seems to have achieved Introspection, however temporarily, on the matter of handicapped children (formerly known as Lebensunwertes Leben).

Or maybe they just realized they were at great risk of losing any social conservative readers who don’t need to see the obituaries (which are 80%+ reliable on the question of whether someone is now dead).

Actually, on the value of innocent human life, I think the tide is turning. Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. I like to think that Matrix PRC and others like it have helped turn the tide of public opinion just by “loving on them” – the moms, the dads, the babies.

And I long for the day when narcissistic media will be so deep in the tank with us that they’ll not remember once having been in the tank with the other side.

3

The neighbors have a family member who shows up at gatherings in a car with the bumper sticker “Who told you I was a Republican? (God).” The answer, of course, is “multiple unreliable sources.”

On the other hand, I have it almost direct from the Almighty Himself that he has had no use for the Democrats since 1972.

4

We should pause to remember that Yanukovych, as bad as he was, assumed that office by an election.  He lost his position–however undeserving–as a result of a revolutionary coup.  A commentator in recent months noted that the U.S. and Russia have changed positions in the world. We support revolutionaries and insurgents world-wide.  The Russians, for better or for worse, are the voice of conservatism, supporters of the status quo.  And if Vladimir Putin was as all-powerful as we sometimes portray him to be, then Yanukovch would not be in exile.

(Notes from a Common-place Book) Apart from some quibbles about the equivocal term “conservative,” I’d say John nailed this. And this:

So, what can we do?–beyond praying for peace, not much.  So what should we do?— beyond praying for peace, even less.  Like I say, it is a tough neighborhood.

5

A political science professor at Purdue, who concentrates on Constitutional Law, and who I’ve found to be an unreliable source in the past, continues his pattern in Sunday’s Journal & Courier. He tries to scare us rubes by saying that if donor Michael McCracken can refer to “God’s physical laws” on plaque outside a conference room at Herrick Labs, then a Muslim donor could refer to Muhammed.

Oh, the horror! Actually, a more apt analogy might be “Allah’s physical laws” (which is what an Arabic Christian might say as well).

But even if Michael McCracken wanted to say “Given in gratitude to my Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, in honor of my parents…” and the Muslim wanted to say “Given in gratitude to Muhammed, the prophet of Allah, in in honor of my parents…,” more power to them.

You got a problem with that, Prof. McLaughlin? Really? What became of “diversity”? Does it merely mean that a very wide variety of faithful persons are forbidden to “adhere to his or her beliefs in practice” for the sake of outward ideological uniformity?

6

“How does it hurt your marriage if two men or two women marry each other?”

Remember when it was the conservatives whose questions and slogans were considered comically simplistic?

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.