Saturday, November 12, 2005

Media bias against Christianity: The Economist

The Economist is a magazine which makes an effort to take a well-rounded look at the economic scene around the world. It also takes a look at politics around the world, though with noticeable sympathies towards certain views and antipathies against other views. It is a pity -- and for a news magazine, a disgrace -- to consistently publish biased pieces against Christianity. Of course The Economist is hardly unique in this bias, but the persistent anti-Christian bias of this magazine was highlighted for me yesterday when someone dropped off for me last night some recent editions which she had finished. These are typical of a trend I have noticed in the magazine, but let these recent examples suffice for now:

The October 29th-November 4th 2005 edition had an article on the then-upcoming election item in Texas whether marriage should be defined in the state constitution as the union of one man and one woman. The article (pp. 30-31) featured a prominent picture of a Klansman with a burning cross as its only photo. The article contains more digs at Texans' integrity than can be easily counted. Absent from the article is any mention that any rational person might have any reason to think that marriage and the family are founded on the union of one man and one woman. The first reason that springs to my mind is the obvious biological fact that humanity has reproduced that way from time immemorial. Also absent from the article is any consideration that, cross-burning aside, there might possibly be any legitimate religious or social reason why mainstream voters -- Democrat and Republican alike -- handed in such a decisive endorsement of defining marriage and the foundation of the family as heterosexual and capable of fertility, as humankind and all religions have always defined marriage as heterosexual (though some religions admit to polygamy, in which everyone is equal but men are more equal than women). The immediate message given by the article plus headline was that supporters of heterosexual marriage could only be dangerous and semi-lunatic fanatics; the text of the article did nothing to change the initial impression.

The November 5th-11th 2005 had an article titled "Texas' dangerous churches: The faithful on the front Line" also captioned "Surely not what the Good Lord intended" (p. 32). The article contains a mocking treatment of Christian reasons for baptism (one rejected by a great many Christians, including specifically those in the baptism-gone-awry that is subject of the article) and the "fact" that baptism is "known to be dangerous" as the lead-in for coverage of a pastor who managed to electrocute himself with his electronic equipment after baptizing a new member. Funny, the churches I've attended that immerse only baptize adults; and those that baptize infants sprinkle water in the hair. None of this prevented the author -- obviously someone with little knowledge of church outside of uninformed prejudices --from following the wrongheaded assertion that baptism is "known to be dangerous" with mention that some people being baptized at sea in South Africa died earlier this year. The fact that the sea is more dangerous than the typical baptismal font did not enter the magazine's computations as to the dangers of baptism. There was no perspective-check on the fact that roughly 2 billion people worldwide are baptized and if it were really all that hazardous (less hazardous than taking a bath, I'd expect) we might hear of baptism fatalities every weekend. The anti-religious article continues that "Worshippers in the state (Texas) are prone to horrifying accidents", in which category are grouped the explosion at the Davidians' compound in Waco and the gun-attack by a madman on a church in Fort Worth. I'm not actually convinced that either of these can be rightly described as "accidents" as the article states; in both cases, religious folks were actually under violent attack, a fact that seems to elude The Economist. After wrongly classifying these as accidents, the author continues to mention, in the category of the dangers of religion in Texas, that a Roman Cathlic priest had pricked the fingers of a dozen or more children during Mass (not drawing blood) to remind them the pain of Christ on the cross. The parents were outraged about the risk of blood-borne infections. Despite the article's main headline about "Texas' dangerous churches", I've been attending church ever since my conversion to Christianity from agnosticism some 30 years ago and have yet to see anybody injured in church -- a fact I could not say about work, or the highway, or home. Oddly, in the wake of hurricane Katrina, I think a mention of religion in Texas to a fair-minded person might have included the millions of dollars which the religious donated to charities, the more millions worth of goods likewise donated, the fact that tens of thousands of Christians volunteered to work at shelters, and the fact that thousands of displaced people were sheltered in churches. The absence of mosques and synagogues from the shelters list typically does not draw comment, though many mosques do not tolerate the presence of the "infidel" and Orthodox synagogues do not tolerate the presence of the non-Jew, though Christians following the teachings of Christ would welcome even their worst enemy, especially at a time like that.

On occasion, one of the writers (all anonymous) will give even-handed treatment of Christianity, but this is very much the exception and not the rule. After all, publishing a once-a-year unbiased piece does not exactly erase the bias of the others; true lack of bias means that a bias is never in evidence, not that some mix of biased-and-unbiased should even out as if bias were tolerable if only a small bit of justice were thrown in on the odd occasion. It is not as if a biased view were one that deserved equal time, or in the case of this magazine, more-than-equal time. If the staff of The Economist considers itself unbiased, they are sadly mistaken; they have just become so comfortable with their biases that they no longer question them, and this cannot be a good sign.

Is there a "Christian Anti-Defamation League" yet?

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