Fox News Doesn’t Get History

Reza Aslan is an American of Iranian descent whose family fled the Iranian Revolution. He’s now a professor of creative writing and a scholar of religious history. He became an evangelical Christian as a teenager, then converted back to the Muslim faith as his studies in religious history undermined the biblical literalism he had accepted as a Christian.

Aslan has now produced a work on the historical Jesus, Zealot: The Life and TImes of Jesus of Nazareth. Rarely has a book by someone other than Rob Bell created such a firestorm before anybody bothered to read it. The primary culprit is Fox News, who are collectively having a hissy fit over the fact that a Muslim is writing about Jesus.

It starts with John Dickerson, who decided to lump all of Fox’s traditional enemies together: Liberal media love new Jesus book ‘Zealot’, fail to mention author is Muslim.

Media reports have introduced Aslan as a “religion scholar” but have failed to mention that he is a devout Muslim.

His book is not a historian’s report on Jesus. It is an educated Muslim’s opinion about Jesus — yet the book is being peddled as objective history on national TV and radio.

First off, Aslan gives his faith story in the author’s note, so he’s hardly playing coy with his readers. During his interview on Fresh Air Terry Gross repeats that story, so NPR – that bastion of middlebrow liberalism – isn’t hiding anything either.

Nevertheless, when Aslan appeared on Fox News to be interview by religion correspondent Lauren Green, the drubbing continued. Richard Bartholomew has the take-away:

Choosing the most egregiously stupid moment is tricky – Green accuses Aslan of failing to “disclose” that he is a Muslim, despite the facts he does so on the second page of his book and that he’s one of the better-known Muslim commentators in the USA; there’s also a bizarre analogy in which she compares Aslan to a Democrat writing a book about Ronald Reagan; but the lowest point I think was this:

You’re quoting yourself as a scholar, and I’ve interviewed scholars who have written books on the Resurrection, on the real Jesus, and who are looking at the same information that you’re saying… to say that your information is somehow different from theirs is really not being honest…

It’s pretty clear that Fox news doesn’t understand historical Jesus scholarship. Or historical scholarship at all for that matter. Green is obviously ignorant of the huge range of opinion even among Christian scholars, and the idea that only Christians should write about Christ undermines the whole enterprise.

What kills me is that Bill O’Reilly will be coming out with Killing Jesus in September. I fully expect the talking heads at Fox to shill for that fact-free dud like their careers depend on it. No one will challenge O’Reilly to explain how a Catholic can write about a Jewish man like Jesus.

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