Media embarrassingly ill-equipped to cover rape, theodicy

The whole point of this website, since day one, has been to help mainstream journalists “get religion.” So I guess I should not be utterly disgusted and disappointed by so many reporters’ coverage of the big Richard Mourdock-theodicy kerfuffle right now. Instead I should view this as a great teaching opportunity.

Every educated person should know the fundamentals of the major world religions. Every American journalist should have a working knowledge of the basics of Christian and Jewish thought.

So everyone open your Bibles and go to Genesis. We’re hoping to end up around Genesis 50:20. In the preceding chapters, we learn about Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons. His brothers really hated him and were filled with jealousy so they conspired to kill him before deciding instead to sell him into slavery. Jacob, believing Joseph had been killed, was left in anguish and grieving.

Joseph somehow becomes the most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh. He does all sorts of wise and judicious things and saves all sorts of people from a brutal famine. Long story short, he ends up meeting up with his long-lost brothers again. They are really worried that he’s going to react poorly. And so:

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” is one of the most well-known passages in Scripture. The teaching that God causes good to result from evil is just basic, basic, basic stuff.

You don’t have to agree with this verse if you’re a reporter, but you should be familiar with it. If you are a reporter and you’re not familiar with the story of Joseph, or the story of Job, or the story of Jesus, you may be surprised at how easy they are to quickly catch up on. I’m not saying you’ll be able to plumb the depths in an evening, but just read Genesis, read Job, read the Gospels. These are foundational to understanding how the vast majority of the people you cover understand God’s will. With further study, you may learn about how Jews and Christians have struggled with understanding God’s will over the millennia. Turns out there is a lot written about it. Books, papers, you name it.

And here’s another thing: Meet someone who identifies as pro-life and ask them a few questions. You may learn that they believe all human life is equally valuable and sacred. You might learn that they affirm that human life begins at conception. You might learn that they really abhor the taking of human life, even at its earliest stages. You might learn that they’ve grappled with “the difficult cases” — whether unborn children should be protected if the circumstances of their conception involved rape or incest, whether unborn children should have any rights if their mother’s life is in danger. You might learn that there are different approaches to how they wrestle with these cases.

If you do these two things — bone up on just the very lowest level basics of Christian teaching on theodicy and meet a pro-lifer and find out what they really think — you might not lead your newscasts with a mangling of the news that some pro-lifers really believe (gasp!) that the circumstances of your conception and birth do not determine your worth and that every single child in the world is created and loved by God. You might learn about this newfangled ancient teaching that God causes good to result from evil.

I want to make it clear that if Democrats want to claim that Mourdock said God intends rape or that he didn’t say it was tragic, that’s their business. We have two weeks to go until election and people are getting a bit antsy. But reporters need to separate themselves from their deeply held ideological leanings and just report. There were bad things, such as the Huffington Post lying by saying that Mourdock told voters that God intends rape.

The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin explained to reporters (who she suspected of partisan outrage on this story):

The essence of religious monotheism is that everything comes from one God, which naturally leaves humans befuddled when “Bad things happen to good people.” The faithful nevertheless persevere in their faith, believing that God is unknowable to human minds. This is the essence, for example, of the Book of Job, which I felt compelled to reread this afternoon. (It is a deeply disturbing story precisely because it raises these fundamental issues about the nature of God, good and evil, etc.)

At Business Insider, a reporter said this story exemplifies what she hates about media coverage of abortion:

Anyone is free to disagree with Mourdock’s position — and to make him explain and defend it — but the media’s surprise and outrage, disguised under the mask of “journalistic objectivity,” is disingenuous and irresponsible.

We all saw the biased coverage yesterday, the curious decision by the media to drum up outrage about Mourdock’s comments while downplaying other gigantic stories. “Abortion distraction for Romney,” said the CNN chyron at one point — precisely as it attempted to achieve just that. You really must read Andrew Ferguson’s attack on such journalism:

The Heisenberg Principle of Journalism puts the lie to all that. You see it at work whenever a news anchor announces that “this story just refuses to go away” or a headline writer insists that “questions continue to be raised” about the conduct of one hapless public figure or another.

The story refuses to go away, of course, because the anchor and his colleagues won’t let it; and the questions that continue to be raised are being raised by the headline writer and his editors. Reporters create more news than anybody, just by pretending they’re watching it unfold.

My favorite were the “stories” that said “Romney campaign says he still supports Mourdock, won’t ask Indiana Senate candidate to pull ad.” Do you have to be a willful partisan to take that approach to writing a story? (“Still supports” a consistent pro-lifer? You don’t say!) Or do you just have to not know that Americans views on abortion aren’t perfectly mirrored in the narrow confines of your newsroom? There were others all tied to the idea that Mourdock needed to apologize for his remarks. Mourdock’s views on abortion are less extreme — relative to the American population — than Barack Obama’s, which include thrice voting to keep a form of infanticide legal. When was the last time you saw a reporter suggest that Obama needed to do anything other than celebrate his views?

Like I said, we’re close to the election and that means that journalists struggle even more with keeping their political views in check. We’re human.

But since the forces in favor of aborting the products of rape have been overly represented in the last couple of days, let’s think of some good ideas for media coverage.

For instance, how about talking to any of the many fellow humans in our midst who are products of rape. They don’t have to be famous like Eartha Kitt was or like one of Angelina Jolie’s adopted daughter is or like Martin Sheen’s wife Janet. They might be just the normal people in our newsrooms, in our churches. We saw journalists make hay of the idea that God intended for them to be born and that their lives are gifts from God. Would we do that if they were in front of us?

Do Mourdock’s political opponents — up to and including President Obama — believe that these lives are not a gift from God? Do they believe that God didn’t intend for them to be born? Would stories framed that way lead the morning and nightly news? If they wouldn’t (and to be sure, I’m speculating about a fantasy world where all candidates are asked the same questions that consistent pro-life candidates are), what does that say about the news judgment displayed thus far? Are discussions of theodicy to be trifled with, mangled, used for partisan purposes? Are they maybe a bit more sensitive than the media outlets were letting on?

Painting via Wikipedia.

  • Darrell Turner

    The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette had two well reported stories today about the latest developments in the Mourdock flap:

    http://www.jg.net/article/20121025/LOCAL/310259984

    http://www.jg.net/article/20121025/LOCAL08/310259983

    Here are a couple of key points from the first one:

    When asked directly whether he believes that God intends pregnancies resulting from rape, he said, “That’s a call above my pay grade.”
    Mourdock also later could not explain his belief that God controls the universe but isn’t responsible for rape.
    “That’s a theological question,” he said.

    Now, if that’s as articulate as the candidate can be — more than 24 hours after the controversy first broke — how can we blame the media for not being able to explain what he meant? Should it be the media’s job, or the candidate’s responsibility, to give the biblical and theological background for understanding his remarks?

    • mollie

      Darrell,
      I went to the links and didn’t see the part where they asked Mourdock’s opponent if he does not believe God intends people conceived via rape to be alive. Perhaps I missed it?
      I mean, where is their disagreement — they’re both pro-life and the entire kerfuffle is over whether God intends or doesn’t intend those human lives brought about through evil means, right? So we should have the opponent clearly asked if he does or does not believe God intends Eartha Kitt, etc., to have lived.
      Please point us to those quotes when you get a chance.

  • Darrell Turner

    Mollie,
    My point isn’t about how the media covered Mourdock’s opponent but on how the media have covered Mourdock’s comments about rape. In your post above, you gave a good explanation of the biblical principles involveed. The question I’m raising is why Mourdock has not given this explanation himself. You may be correct about the basis of his thinking, but why is he not able to articulate this himself? He has had ample opportunity to issue a statement with comments like yours.

    • mollie

      Well, that’s beyond the confines of this blog. We’re only concerned about how the media cover an issue, not about the underlying candidates or positions, etc.

    • Dennis

      The point is not whether or not Mourdock can explain himself. Maybe he can’t.

      The point is why only Mourdock has to explain himself. There are clearly questions to be asked about allowing a rape exception that are at least equally uncomfortable and embarrassing. Why aren’t those being asked?

      If a ref calls only legitimate penalties, but only on one team, is he a good ref?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Speaking of “partisan outrage”… if you’re willing to characterize Obama as ‘voting for infanticide’, are you willing to allow links to someone arguing differently? See the comments of David Nickol here.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

    Abortion is not a religious issue; it’s a human rights issue. See http://secularprolife.org. While some people’s religious beliefs help shape their view on the abortion issue, the media is not accurate when they portray abortion as solely a religious or theological issue.

    • notreally

      So slavery was a religious issue that shouldn’t have been addressed by national policy because of the outspoken religious reasons often given for abolishing it? Come on.

  • susan

    The problem with Mourdock’s statement is not that he believes in God bringing about good from evil or that he believes babies are God-given in general. The problem is that, in America where we have enshrined freedom of religion in our constitution, his statement was about whether or not a woman who may or may not believe in the same God or rules of faith that he does should be prohibited by law from obtaining a medical prescription or procedure that she has determined to be in her best interest physically and emotionally after a presumably traumatic experience. Is it not the definition of infringement of religious liberty to codify a belief based on one group’s particular faith and impose that belief on all other groups or individuals by law? As Americans, when we see examples of non-Christian majority countries codifying their majority religion’s beliefs and then harshly punishing people who break those laws even if they don’t believe in the majority religion, don’t we cry foul? That seems a little hypocritical if we then turn around and support legislation that would require or restrict actions based on faith in our country.
    The media’s failure here is in focusing on whether or not he was trying to justify rape. He clearly wasn’t, but that doesn’t make his comments any less offensive. The media’s failure obscures the bigger issue which is worthy of a much more intelligent discussion.

    • http://www.authenticbioethics.blogspot.com AuthenticBioethics

      You raise an interesting point: Does the separation of church and state require that people who hold public office be atheists, or at least espouse laws and ethics that derive from an atheistic foundation? Are people with publicly and deeply held religious views disqualified from holding office? The media seem to think so.

      However, on another level, the notion is not a religious belief that a baby is an innocent, living human individual and a subject of rights, irrespective of the conditions of its conception. That is the position of the Catholic Church anyway. A law that respects that notion does not violate the US Constitution. Backing up one’s assent to that notion with faith-based reasoning is not a violation of the First Amendment, and neither is a law that respects that notion a violation of the First Amendment just because supporters of such a law do so for religious reasons. A woman’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) might permit abortion, but those beliefs cannot change what the baby is. “What the baby is” is the very question that the media are not asking. Also, one could argue that laws permitting abortion likewise violate the religious beliefs of those who hold that society should never tolerate the direct and intentional killing of an innocent human individual.

      • Will

        “Does the separation of church and state require that people who hold public office be atheists, or at least espouse laws and ethics that derive from an atheistic foundation? ”
        Or that we are under an obligation to pretend to be atheists in the voting booth?

      • Ted Seeber

        The current Catholic View is based not on religion, but on genetics.

  • blestou

    Mumble kinda proves the point.

    ” the idea that we should
    make policy based on someone’s
    religious ideology is a little unusual in
    this country” – it is actually not at all unusual in the United States. The First Amendment is arguably a policy favoring a certain ideology of religious freedom.

    ” mind-bogglingly ridiculous” – Fair to say that at least a plurality, if not a overwhelming majority, of Americans think that some power (God, the gods, the universe, fate, whatever) brings good and purpose out of bad-seemingly-random events that happen to us. If this boggles the mind, more understanding is needed.

    “but we know” – this is the issue. We don’t know, that is why actual reporting is necessary. “but we know” is the language of partisan opinion and advocacy campaigning.

    Partisan rants are o.k. for blogs, but should not find their way into objective reporting.

    • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

      Is “a certain ideology of religious freedom” an ideology that is religious, though?

      • blestou

        Yes. It is absolutely a religious idea.

      • blestou

        More precisely, religious liberty is *fundamentally* a religious idea.

  • Darrell Turner

    Perhaps the media should be questioning pro-choice candidates about some of these issues. However, I thought one of the original points was how the media did or did not misinterpret Murdouck’s comments about rape. My original comment in this thread and my follow-up at 10 a.m. are making the point that it’s unfair to blame the media for failing to clarify what Murdouck should be clarifying himself.

    • blestou

      Perhaps Mourdock, having given an honest and thoughtful answer to a difficult and contentious issue, witnessed the “reporting” that followed and decided not to feed the trolls. His silence at this point does not indicate much more than pragmatism.

      • http://www.authenticbioethics.blogspot.com AuthenticBioethics

        I thought that too. At some point, you gotta stop talking to people who are ravenous for ways of making you look bad.

      • Will

        Yes, my father warned “Never tell reporters anything, they will only twist it.”

  • Dan Crawford

    Is it possible that these candidates might learn how to express themselves more elegantly? And is it possible that Mollie might actually make some critical comment about their remarks ? What has she to say about Ann Coulter’s “retard” remarks? Perhaps, Mollie might exegete that comment for us.

    • Chris Bolinger
    • mollie

      We say it three times a day: we have a limited focus here at GetReligion. We don’t analyze anybody’s comments. Full stop. We look at how well the media covers religion news. If you want to talk about Coulter or politicians, that’s fine – this is just not the place for that conversation. There are many places on the internet to discuss that. This is not one of them. We only look at media coverage. THat’s our very narrow focus.

    • Will

      “Expressing yourself more clearly” does not help with people who have already decided to put you in a bad light.

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  • dalea

    Finally put my finger on what Mollie’s explanation of good coming from evil reminds me of. It is the Pietistic argument against churches having lightening rods. This was a major issue for Scandanavian Lutherans in the 19th century in the US. The Pietists argued that having a lightening rod showed a lack of trust in God’s providence and an unsure grasp of faith. The rationalist argued that God gave us a brain as a means of dealing with the world’s problems, and churches burning down could be prevented. Moberg’s ‘Utvandrarna’ details this discourse.

    I suspect that there are many ways of presenting the Christian faith in this particular instance. The press needs to show a greater range.

  • SouthCoast

    It would seem that the media are singularly ignorant of the Nicene Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life…”, which may be what Murdouck was trying to express in the first place. Extemporaneous apologetics are, apparently, not the man’s strong point, but that could probably be said for most of us!

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  • Matt

    Mollie,

    I may be misreading you, but it seems to me that you are saying if a conservative Christian candidate for public office (Murdock, in this case) fails to articulate his conservative Christian beliefs in a way that appeals to those who do not share his theological perspective, it is then the responsibility of the media to do that work for him. Is that what you’re saying?

    • mollie

      Oh, you may be misreading me, you think? Come on. To figure out the mysterious message I’m sending, I’d recommend just reading the piece above (and the one linked to at the top). Pretty clear what I’m saying.

      • Alan

        Yeah it is clear – you are unable to approach media bias in an unbiased way when it comes to religious and political issues close to you. Very clear indeed.

        • mollie

          Alan,
          We generally encourage more thoughtful criticism than what you’ve offered here. You are more than welcome to disagree with my take, but please try to be thoughtful about it. For instance, quote something I said that you take issue with and explain why you think my media criticism is in error. That type of thing. Again, you’re welcome to disagree — we encourage it, in fact — but please substantiate your criticisms. Thanks.

      • Matt

        Mollie,
        I really don’t mean to be obtuse here; I’m trying to understand what the media could do differently without doing Murdock’s job for him. I think Murdock articulated a theological position that is not shared by a significant number of voters and now his candidacy is suffering as a result. If a politician will not or can not “translate” theological convictions into language accessible to those who do not share their theology, I’m really not sure that the media should be in the business of doing that for them.

        • sari

          On the contrary, Matt. Agree with him or not, Mourdock’s stated theological position is common to members of most major religious groups present in this country. It may be insignificant to some (or many) members of the media, but it *is* significant to a large percentage of the population. Mollie is spot on on this one; faith that G-d has a plan, hidden perhaps from us mere mortals, and that good will over time arise from evil, underlies Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

          Rather than present him as an idiot for adhering to his religious views, the media should have reported them in a more respectful manner and asked him to elaborate on those areas that needed further explanation, just as they would have for people who hold opposite views.

          • Matt

            But our culture grows increasingly post-Christian with each passing day. Traditional Christians can’t expect fellow citizens to understand or sympathize with their beliefs. They either have to learn to articulate their political positions in ways that appeal to those who do not share their theology or they have to expect the kind of reaction that Murdock got. Mollie’s proposed solution is to have the media step in and do Murdock’s job for him.

  • Darrell Turner

    Mollie, my original comment at the start of this thread quotes a newspaper report that quotes comments Richard Mourdock made when given an opportunity to clarify his original remarks. In your post, you explain a passage from Genesis and give a brief overview of Christian beliefs about good resulting from evil. Richard Mourdock did not make these points. If the only purpose of Get Religion postings is to analyze media coverage, why did you include those comments? It sounded to me, and possibly to Matt, as though you were suggesting that the media give this background to interpret Mourdock’s remarks because he didn’t provide it himself. If that was not your point, what was your point in paragraphs 3-5 of your blog post?

    • mollie

      Thanks, Darrell,
      You really have to understand that this blog is not about anything other than media coverage. If you view it strictly through that prism, it may help. And this being a media criticism site, we are obviously just offering our informed opinion about whether media coverage is good or bad. Sometimes we think something is good and readers think it was bad (again, the “it” being MEDIA COVERAGE, not the underlying issue). Sometimes we think the media coverage is bad and others think it’s awesome.
      In this case, I’m talking about the journalistic decision to run with this story, hype it, lead all those broadcasts with it (repeating this story twice in the same shows at times!), ask Mitt Romney why he hasn’t thrown off all of those AWFUL consistent pro-lifers while never even coming close to portraying the equivalent “extremism” on the other side as anything even worth writing about, etc., etc., etc. (and I could go on and on and on).
      Now as I said in my post, this is a teaching opportunity. Would they bias the coverage this way if they knew a consistent pro-lifer and asked her why she thinks children conceived via rape and children conceived otherwise are all valuable and deserving of protection? Would they muck up this story and bring out the CODE RED FREAK OUT if they understood that Jews and Christians have struggled with the idea of how bad things happen to people? Would they have embarrassed themselves so ridiculously if they knew that Christians believe God brings good out of evil?
      I argue that their horrific coverage relates to their inability to have a basic education in any of the Scriptures or traditions that relate to this.
      Now, if we were going to have a conversation about Mourdock’s statements (and we’re not!) I would have things to say about it. Even negative things (including a negative thought I have that I haven’t really seen too much elsewhere). But that’s not the scope of this blog. We ONLY talk about media coverage.

  • dalea

    Mollie asks:

    ‘Would they bias the coverage this way if they knew a consistent pro-lifer and asked her why she thinks children conceived via rape and children conceived otherwise are all valuable and deserving of protection?’

    What I have never seen covered in the MSM nor in ProLife reporting is just what this protection amounts to. When there is a rape victim who has been impregnated, just what do ProLifers want to be done? And what happens if the victim elects not to continue the pregnancy? Is there a way ProLifers advocate that would prevent her? I am very unclear just what protecting the unborn means in terms of actual living women who do not want to be pregnant and who desire not to carry to term. How should the press explain the ProLife program; saying they would they protect the unborn but how would they do so.

  • MJBubba

    This is a typical situation. Conservative Christians do explain their position, and when they do it with clarity and nuance the journalists yawn and say ‘this isn’t news.’ On other occasions, such as this, a Conservative gives a clumsy, inarticulate explanation, and the journalists pounce: ‘this is a great gotcha quote that can help our guy’s campaign.’
    The whole field of mass media journalism has chosen the side of the progressives. Not only do they not know the ancient teachings of the church, they are deliberately ignorant of such matters. Real understanding might get in the way of the narrative.

    • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

      MJBubba –

      Conservative Christians do explain their position, and when they do it with clarity and nuance the journalists yawn and say ‘this isn’t news.’

      Scientists get that, too, y’know. I can’t think of a profession that doesn’t happen to.

  • Julia

    In defense of reporters – different Christian traditions have differing views on this situation.
    After 12 years of Catholic education, for instance, I would have never connected the Joseph story to bringing good out of evil. Some of this has to do with Christians’ widely differing positions on the degree to which God wills all the events that happen to humans. Christians also have widely differing positions on free will. Christians are not uniform on how we look at God’s will on day-to-day life, the freedom of humans to act, and the rights to ascribe to unborn life at various stages. A reporter would need some study of comparative Christian theology to figure out what Murdoch actually meant. I know I was baffled by the words he used. I thought he couldn’t possibly have meant that God willed the rape, but it looks like maybe he did mean that.

    • Karen

      Wow, really? Even though the verse says *right there* that “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good”? That doesn’t give me a lot of respect for Catholic education, sorry.

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  • Beck

    I think it’s clear that the vast majority of the media doesn’t treat opinions like his seriously and tend to give pro-choice views more of a pass. It does seem to me more consistently pro-life to be pro-life regardless of the circumstances in which a baby is created.

    However, I’m not sure I agree that the media had the responsibility in this situation to clarify Mourdock’s beliefs for him. During his first comments and follow-ups, he has at least made the following claims:

    1) “I believe that life begins at conception”
    2) “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother”
    3) “even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen”
    4) “God does not want rape”
    5) “I believe God controls the universe”
    6) “I don’t believe biology works in an uncontrolled fashion”

    Clearly there is a wide variety of Christian belief on the issue of free will and to what extent God controls or influences both what we do and the outcomes of our actions (not to mention disagreement on #2). These are tricky issues. However, it is not immediately clear how holding all six of these beliefs is consistent, nor why the media shouldn’t be critical of this.

    Should they be equally critical of others? Sure. Is this hyped because of election time? Sure. Is the media justified in airing beliefs about public politicians that will affect how they legislate? Absolutely.

  • michael

    Mollie,

    While I agree that the theological literacy of most journalists tends to fall somewhere between abysmal and horrendous, you surely don’t believe that the problem with this rotten coverage is merely theological ignorance, as if it could simply be remedied by a little education. It doesn’t take a PhD in theology or even Sunday school to get the plain sense of what Mourdock was trying to say–that human being is a creature and child beloved of God and a gift in its very nature and inmost essence, regardless of its origin. This should be evident to anyone willing to entertain his remarks with a modicum of good will and charity and a sincere desire to understand and report. Have you seen much evidence of these?

    Even so…

    I know that analysis of Mourdock’s theology is beyond the scope of GR. But it strikes me as an artificial and ultimately impossible exercise–and one ultimately contradicted by the advice in your post– to try to separate utterly the justice or injustice of the media’s response to his theodicy from the substance of his remarks, much less from the wisdom of these remarks given the media environment that you and Ferguson so devastatingly describe. While I agree with what I think Mourdock was trying to say, I cringed when I saw his remarks and not primarily because they were politically unwise or because the absence of good will made the ensuing firestorm as predicatable as death and taxes. Rather I cringed because his stated theodicy DOES seem simplistic and problematic in ways that extend far beyond this question, and in ways that fail do to justice either to the evil of rape, or to the goodness of God, or, ultimately, to the inherent dignity of human life, a dignity that is natural as well as supernatural. At the very least, they leave open real questions that can be painfully misunderstood by victims of this crime and disingenuously (and predictably) exploited by a hostile and unserious media uninterested in the truth of the issue and unwilling to give his remarks their best or even most obvious sense. I would say, therefore, that this firestorm is the result BOTH of widespread journalistic superficiality and bad faith AND Mourdock’s defective theodicy, not to say political imprudence. These are not mutually exclusive. Politicians must ask themselves whether they best articulate what is at stake in this question or even best witness to their faith by becoming spokesmen for divine providence in a thirty second response during a political debate, and they must surely know, given the reality of journalistic superficiality and ill-will, that they theologize in public about these matters at their peril. (And I suspect Mourdock knew what he had done before he even finished speaking.) Given this fact, a politician who does dare to speak on behalf of divine providence has both a political and a religious responsibility to reflect deeply upon it and to do it well, so that he or she can then be crucified for speaking truly, humanely, intelligently, and compellingly as well as for being courageous.

    Thank you for linking to the Ferguson piece, which I enjoyed very much. As you know, I think we need to devote less attention to the defects in the coverage of this or that story and more to the analysis of what what journalism is and how the media mediate, even–or especially–in its best instances. The novelty of the instantaneous global echo chamber created by the internet makes this all the more imperative. Journalism is an institution of enormous and often concealed power that we barely understand. While the Ferguson piece doesn’t delve deeply into this matter, it at least lays bare some of these operations. That is a start.

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  • http://www.poisonyourmind.com reflectionephemeral

    Do they believe that God didn’t intend for them to be born? Would stories framed that way lead the morning and nightly news?

    Yes, they would be.

    That’s the problem in this circumstance, as Beck et al point out above. Mourdock has done a poor job articulating his theological views that influence his political decisions. This is an issue on which people have strong views. To draw an arbitrary line on what God wills, and say, “God wants what I want; bad things that happen aren’t God’s will for reasons I don’t care to think about or explain; I will vote this way in the Senate”, is a controversial way of expressing views. It’s walking away from reasoned discussion. So, yes, I agree with you. If a candidate said, “God wills that embryos conceived in a rape shouldn’t be brought to term”, it would result in a media storm akin to this one. It would be the same approach that Mourdock has taken– “God wants what I want, but I can’t articulate why other than to say that it is so. This view determines the policies I will pursue as an elected official.”

  • cermak_rd

    Only a small minority of Americans are in religious services on any given weekend. Why should, therefore, the media care what religious people think? That is why I think the whole premise of this blog is silly. Truth is people are moving away from formal religion to a more informal affair without Creeds or Scriptures. So why should an appeal be made to those? The reason the media is reporting on this is that it was an ugly thing for the candidate to state the way he said it. And commentary is pretty much unnecessary when you have the candidates own words. He said what he said and didn’t say what he didn’t say. He could, as has been pointed out earlier, have tried to put some theological or Scriptural lipstick on that pig and didn’t.

    And not only the media is unable to intelligently report on theodicy but most theologians are unable to comment on it intelligibly because it has never been answered. The book of Job pretty much just punts on the question with the Almighty getting all huffy and saying no one deserves an answer.

  • bob

    More generally and more stunning for a headline : God intends for EVERYONE TO DIE. Dig THAT. Everyone will just as surely as they are conceived by whatever means, naughty or nice. If you can get you head around that it’s easier. A journalist would have a hard time with this unless he could say “GOP candidate says God wants everyone dead”. Beats them people in Kansas, huh?

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  • sari

    Matt said: “But our culture grows increasingly post-Christian with each passing day. Traditional Christians can’t expect fellow citizens to understand or sympathize with their beliefs. They either have to learn to articulate their political positions in ways that appeal to those who do not share their theology or they have to expect the kind of reaction that Murdock got. Mollie’s proposed solution is to have the media step in and do Murdock’s job for him.”

    Matt,
    Rather than post-Christian, a better descriptor might be irreligious. Still, every study shows that the majority of Americans, all Americans that is, not just those in the news business, identify as Christians, with a good percentage of the remainder adhering to some other religion.

    Mollie’s contention was the disproportionate and uniformly negative coverage afforded a statement with which the majority of Americans would concur, while completely ignoring similarly blunt statements made by people who hold to a pro-choice position. The media’s job should be to report the news, not steer culture in one direction or another.

    FYI, it’s Mourdock, not Murdock.

  • blestou

    Yes, I remember in the 2008 election how the MSM went on for weeks and weeks when Obama said his grandchildren were “a mistake” and did not deserve to live. All the headlines and nightly news analysis. We just couldn’t get away from it all.

  • MJBubba

    Matt said “Traditional Christians can’t expect fellow citizens to understand or sympathize with their beliefs.”
    If well over two thirds of Americans self-identify as Christians, is it so far-fetched that a Christian politician would expect journalists to understand what his position is, even if he stumbled in expressing it? And Mollie is right; Mourdock’s position is no more extreme on the pro-life side than Barack Obama’s position is extreme on the pro-abortion side, so why such a concerted effort to stir up histrionics regarding Mourdock? The evidence is clear that mass media is on the pro-abortion side and that they have become partisans.
    The point of GetReligion has been to call out mass media journalism for ignorance of religious issues as an attempt to improve the quality of journalism regarding religious matters. GetReligion has promoted an “American model of journalism” in which ideal reporting is complete, clear, and neutral. The reporting by the mass media has been abysmal during this election year, with partisan journalists not even looking for a fig leaf to cover their naked partisanship.

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