After looking at the tape more carefully, I have a somewhat more nuanced view (cue: lofty NPR background music) of Diane Sawyer’s PrimeTime special with Mel Gibson. She did not wrinkle her nose in disdain nearly as much as I thought she did.
Nevertheless, I still find it somewhat predictable that evangelical scholar Darrell Bock is labeled an “evangelical scholar,” while the other experts are all given more neutral titles. Take the Jewish scholar, for example. Was she Orthodox, Conservative or Reform? And that former priest, scholar John Dominic Crossen, is he consistently on the left side of every Catholic debate? Viewers might like to know things like that. The implication, again, is that there are conservative views on biblical issues and then there are normal, scholarly, sensible views.
But on second viewing, I was more impressed with the range of material covered in the actual quotations in the special. There were major insights. Clearly, Gibson is not going to speak ill of his father. But clearly the son has no doubts about the reality of the Holocaust.
It also seems that Gibson knows that there are historical and doctrinal issues on both the Jewish and Christian sides of the many historical questions about Jesus. As he told Sawyer:
Let’s get this out on the table and talk about it, you know. This is what the Talmud says. This is what the Gospel says. Let’s talk. Let’s talk. People are asking questions about things that have been buried a long time. … I hope it inspires introspection.
Finally, I was fascinated by Sawyer’s final remark. It seems that reporting this story created tension in the newsroom. Was it hard to be fair when covering such an emotional, complex topic? Here is all she would say: “One more note, we should point out that all of us at ABC News who worked on this report learned a lot about each other, too. We hope you join in our conversation.”
Perhaps ABC wants feedback, as well.