Newsweek on abortion, hellfire and rumors

murphybrownOne of the problems with the mainstream media’s rush to the gutter in the early days following her being named for the VP slot is that their entire reputation has been shot. So many people disliked what they saw and read in the first week that they’ve lost a level of trust with the media. It’s important, though, to understand that the desire for information about Palin is legitimate and good and it’s the point of having a press.

And it may not be a big deal, but some who pushed some of the more disconcerting lines of attack against Palin conceded they went overboard. Here’s a clip of Sally Quinn apologizing, in her special way, for some of what she wrote last week.

I had written up a long post about Hanna Rosin’s surprisingly clueless rant in Slate about why evangelical Christians didn’t like the choices made by fictional character Murphy Brown but didn’t crucify Palin because her daughter is pregnant out of wedlock. It was an uncharacteristically poor piece (she at one point says something about Palin’s “wreck of a home life” — come again?) from a great religion reporter, but it was more punditry rather than straight reportage so I didn’t post it. I had also looked at Slate Group editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg’s piece that also focused on different reactions to fictional character Murphy Brown and the Palin family.

Anyway, Weisberg’s Slate piece was picked up by Newsweek, which is all part of the same Washington Post media family. Media consolidation is fun. The begins by saying that conservatives in the 1980s framed the pro-life cause as part of a broader family-values agenda that included upholding the nuclear family. He argues that opposition to abortion and support of the nuclear family are at odds. He says that abortion is key to upholding the kind of family structure that conservatives believe in (two parents, no government assistance). He says that abortion gives people the chance to live the conservative dream. It’s kind of a weird article. It is interesting to see the editor of a prominent publication unashamedly argue for the morality of abortion, using Bristol Palin’s unborn child as a hook:

Forget the Juno scenario–in the real world, only a tiny fraction of unwed mothers give their babies up for adoption. If you do not allow teenage girls who accidentally become pregnant to have abortions, you are demanding either that they raise their children as single mothers or that they marry in shotgun weddings. By the numbers, neither choice is promising. Unmarried teenage moms seldom get much financial or emotional support from the fathers of their babies. They tend to drop out of high school and go on the dole, and they are prone to lives of poverty, frustration, and disorder. Only 2 percent of them make it through college by the age of 30. The Bristol Palin option doesn’t promote family happiness, stability, or traditional structure, either. Of women under 18 who marry, whether because of pregnancy or not, nearly half divorce within 10 years–double the rate for those who wait until they’re 25.

Clearly if she were conservative she should just have an abortion right now. Classy, Weisberg! Oh, and sorry about all your numbers being questionable. Weisberg then goes on to say he’s “long expected” Republicans to drop their anti-abortion views. Which makes you kind of wonder how he became the editor of a Washington Post group publication. He blames “evangelical dominance” for what ails the Republican Party and repeatedly refers to pro-lifers as “anti-abortion extremists.” It was slightly edited by the time it reached Newsweek so that Gov. Palin wasn’t described as an extremist but, rather, a purist.

In all seriousness, I think this Palin-induced hysteria is good for a few things. Finding out what the editor of Slate Group thinks of pro-lifers and the morality of abortion is helpful, I guess. That Newsweek would think it worthy of publication is good to know, I guess.

Newsweek had a couple of other interesting religion pieces. Religion reporter Lisa Miller has a story about how the Palin pick totally kills the long-heralded moderation of evangelicals. You might not know that from the headline, which is, I kid you not:

A Religious-Right Revival
The senior pastor of Palin’s former church preaches hellfire for anyone who isn’t saved by Jesus.

Well, that just isn’t done in newsrooms! It brings to mind both Weiss’ First Law of Religious Relativism:

Every religion is crazy, by definition, to an unbeliever.

junoPoster2And, of course, it also reminds me of the famous Tmatt Trio. I’m thinking of question #2:

(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)?

That a Christian pastor would believe in hell is supposed to be shocking? That a Christian pastor would believe that Jesus saves is shocking? That a Christian pastor would preach exclusive truth is supposed to be shocking? Come again? What’s really shocking is that Newsweek thinks this is shocking. Also: hellfire? Is this the best way we could present this doctrinal tenet? Everyone calm down.

It’s a shame because the piece itself makes a really interesting point. These “new” evangelicals are supposed to care about a lot more issues than abortion. But being pro-life is foundational. With Palin’s impeccable pro-life credentials, she’s well liked by evangelicals. But do her other views match up with their broader agenda?

Younger Christians express disappointment that the rules of the game have changed so little. Cameron Strang is the 32-year-old publisher of the Christian magazine Relevant and an advocate for the new evangelical agenda. That evangelicals are pro-life is stipulated, he explains. But young Christians had become hopeful in recent years that they might look beyond abortion to other issues — a change in perspective that could lead to a vote for Sen. Barack Obama. Palin backs these Christians into a corner. “She hasn’t addressed issues of concern to younger Christian voters,” says Strang. “All of a sudden, it’s us versus them and you have to pick a side. With abortion as a wedge issue, it’s going to be harder and harder for moderate Christians to feel OK supporting Obama.” Everything new is old again. Palin’s candidacy revives the religious right, the abortion debate and the pit-bull advocate for both. The only difference is the lipstick.

I guess we can add lipstick to ensoulment as the big buzzwords this year on the religion beat! (Incidentally, Washington Post‘s On Faith religion site currently features a Chicago Divinity School professor saying this about Palin:

Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.

Anywho, the final Newsweek story of note is a list of rumors about Palin that aren’t true. One relates to an issue I covered a while back:

Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska’s schools. She has said that students should be allowed to “debate both sides” of the evolution question, but she also said creationism “doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”

Now if only we could get these factchecks to Matt Damon!

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  • Jim Hart

    Just as a correction – Hanna Rosin is not married to Jacob Weisberg, but to Daniel Plotz, who replaced Weisberg as the EIC of Slate.

  • Jim Hart

    Correction to my correction – David Plotz, not Daniel…

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jim,

    Thank you! I fixed it. I think I was just looking for an excuse to link to that awesome video of Rosin and her husband!

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    And here’s that link for anyone who is interested in seeing a married couple stay within 15 feet of each other for a day. Maybe it meant more to me since my husband and I are both writers.

  • Brian Walden

    If you do not allow teenage girls who accidentally become pregnant to have abortions, you are demanding either that they raise their children as single mothers or that they marry in shotgun weddings.

    Wouldn’t the corollary to this be: If you allow teenage girls who accidentally become pregnant to have abortions, you are demanding either that they raise their children as single mothers, marry in shotgun weddings, or that they kill their own children.

    Surely there are more than three options here.

  • Grupetti

    Mollie wrote:
    “One of the problems with the mainstream media’s rush to the gutter in the early days following her being named for the VP slot is that their entire reputation has been shot.”

    Those are red herrings, Mollie. Their reputation has been somewhat recovered by challenging Palin’s brazen and blatent lying about things like her initial support of the Bridge to Nowhere. If they had any courage, they would ask her what kind of Christian she is when she continues to lie.

    I have one more question. Is GetReligion going to bolster its reputation for obvious conservative bias, or are you folks going to ask some tough questions about her religion such as mine?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I had to take out some off-topic comments and subsequent responses to the off-topic comments, just fyi.

  • Grupetti

    Good for you, Mollie.

    My question still remains about her lying. You know its a legitimate one, both as a Christian and a journalist. Will you press (excuse the pun) the MSM to cover it?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Grupetti,

    I’m a libertarian so I basically think all politicians lie as part of their job description.

    However, I do think that religion news coverage should be broadened to discuss — and commenter Jerry had some really good suggestions on this front — the broader implications of religion and public life.

    There are all sorts of conflicts between religious values and political values and I think those should be explored.

    If we spent time asking all the Christian politicians about lies . . . we wouldn’t have much time for other stuff. But I am curious with Palin on something she said in her acceptance speech about Obama being more concerned about reading people their rights than protecting the country (or something like that).

    And I think that would be a great opening to discuss religious views on torture and stuff like that.

    I read today a poll that shows tolerance for torture relative to religious views and I hope it gets more coverage.

    So I do think that religion coverage should be “expanded” to discuss larger themes.

    Of course, they’re doing such a bad job with everybody — both parties, all sides, etc. — on religious coverage right now that basically my hope amounts to a pipe dream.

  • Harris

    Several comments:

    First, there is a tension going on with Palin and the evangelical community. As part of the pro-development crowd, she exists in tension with those who value environmental issues. So while Christian rightists champion her pro-abortion side, they may also be pushing the younger evangelical closer to the door

    Second, it seems something of a question whether Palin particularly self-identifies as a Christian conservative. Here, I think that Rod Dreher was very smart the other day: she’s better understood politically as a western governor. To the degree her politics are different from those of the cultural war Christian Right, the wedge issues (abortion, principally) may turn out to be more flexible than absolute — there already seems to be whiffs of this regarding gays.

    Third, I think you miss the point from Prof. Doniger. In context, she speaks rather clearly of “woman” as a political personna. Initially, that certainly was the thought, wasn’t it, Gov. Palin as an appeal to Sen. Clinton’s supporters? And on that, the Governor is rather far from typical women’s issues. (The report today that as mayor, Wasilla was the only city in Alaska to charge rape victims for their medical exams only confirms the anti-feminist tilt).

    Oh, and last, can a Lutheran really be a libertarian?

  • Grupetti

    “If we spent time asking all the Christian politicians about lies . . . ”

    I’m sorry Mollie, but that sounds terribly evasive. McCain/Palin are not your ordinary liars. They have taken it to a new level. I’m sure you have seen the recent spate of coverage of the huge quantities of lies from McCain/Palin. And you sound more like an anti-liberal and anti-Democrat than a libertarian.

    “Of course, they’re doing such a bad job with everybody — both parties, all sides, etc. — on religious coverage right now that basically my hope amounts to a pipe dream.”

    That what I call Irrational Dismissive Equivalence. You are truly in denial Mollie. Obama’s so-called Pastor Problem got endless incessant coverage…far, far more than what this one single incident with Palin.

    My original question remains:
    “My question still remains about her lying. You know its a legitimate one, both as a Christian and a journalist. Will you press (excuse the pun) the MSM to cover it?”

    All you’ve done is dodge the question.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Grupetti,

    Consider this a warning. All future comments that are so rude to me will be deleted.

    If you want to fight partisan politics, do it elsewhere.

    Thank you,

    Mollie


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