Got news? Is a global ‘war on Christianity’ newsworthy?

Got news? Is a global ‘war on Christianity’ newsworthy? June 14, 2013

Would it be newsworthy if a U.S. Senator claimed in a public address that American taxpayer dollars are being used in a war against Christian believers in — to pick one key region — the Holy Land?

Apparently not, since Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made that claim yesterday at the Faith and Freedom Conference and the media has all but ignored it. As James Hohmann of Politico reports:

“There is a war on Christianity, not just from liberal elites here at home, but worldwide,” he said. “And your government, or more correctly, you, the taxpayer, are funding it.”

Although it was noticed by a handful of the D.C.-based, politically oriented sites, few mainstream outlets picked up on the story (a mention by CBS News and the AP are the only ones I could find).

Why the silence?

Imagine if a senator — a potential candidate for president, in fact — had claimed we were funding a war on Islam, or Hinduism, or Judaism. Would that not be a front-page story? Why then the difference when it comes to Christianity?

Part of the reason, I suspect, is because few journalists understood what Sen. Paul is even talking about. The socially conservative Christians at the conference knew what he meant, but that is because they read alternative media sources. Religious media outlets mention persecution of Christians around the globe nearly every week, though such stories rarely find their way into mainstream news stories. Even when, earlier this month, the Vatican claimed that 100,000 Christians are killed annually because of their faith, no major media seemed interested enough to do a follow-up on the assertion.

Perhaps some journalists thought that by reporting on Sen. Paul’s statement they would be required to explain the context. But they needn’t have worried about that. Here, for example, is the entire mention by the Associated Press in their 900+ word article titled, “GOP leader says ‘a war on Christianity’ is funded by taxpayers”:

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told the group that there is a “war on Christianity, not just from liberal elites here at home, but worldwide.” He argued that American should not send foreign aid to countries across the Middle East that persecute Christians.

Am I missing something? Is Sen. Paul’s statement so uncontroversial that it’s not really newsworthy? Is the “war on Christianity” such a well-understood phenomenon that it doesn’t need elaboration?

In politics we often hear about “dog whistles” and “code words” — political messaging that uses language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. Most of the time the claims about code words are products of some opposing pundit’s imagination. In this case, though, Paul really is using dog whistle language to a convey a message.

Those who only read mainstream media will not be able to understand since they likely never hear about the global “war on Christianity,” even when the topic is discussed in major government reports, in Vatican statements and in documents from human rights groups.

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13 responses to “Got news? Is a global ‘war on Christianity’ newsworthy?”

  1. In your first sentence, you conflate the Holy Land with the Middle East. When did that happen? Does Israel, the Holy Land, persecute Christians on the basis of their religion?

    We must be using a different search engine. The very first article to come up on mine was a fairly comprehensive article by ABC news (link below). It included a more complete quote from Rand and also from Marco Rubio, and it placed the comments in context. The two spoke at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference.

    The second and shorter article came from the WaPo (admittedly a DC outlet). It was a short overview.

    Number three is from Yahoo. The way it’s written we now have evangelical Jews. Never though I’d see *that* in my lifetime.

    The religious newsites are further down.

    • Yeah, I was about to say the same thing: I had seen the story in the same places, as part of the longer piece about Paul reaching out to the conservative religious base of the GOP. If it’s not getting wider play, I guess it’s because other stuff may be sucking up all the oxygen in the room, like the prospect of the US going to war in Syria and spying by the NSA. And, of course, lots of people are still hungover from the last election.

      • If we do go to war in Syria we’ll be financing the rebels, who are Islamist. They are destroying the 2000 year old Christian community previously protected by the leadership in power. The same thing happened in Iraq.
        I wonder if we should believe the “sarin” any more than the “WMD”.

    • ***In your first sentence, you conflate the Holy Land with the Middle East.***

      For Christians the “Holy Land” encompasses modern-day Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Syria. (I’m not positive, but I think Muslims “Blessed Land” is the same area.) The “Middle East”, though, includes other countries, like Iraq and Egypt.The very first article to come up on mine was a fairly comprehensive article by ABC news (link below).

      ***The very first article to come up on mine was a fairly comprehensive article by ABC news (link below).***

      For GetReligion purposes, we tend not to include blogs as part of the mainstream media coverage (both the ABC News and WP were blog posts). That’s not to say that the blogs are inferior or should be held to a lower standard. It’s only that the number of people who will read those blog posts is an order of magnitude less than would see it if it were on the main webpage, the print edition, the nightly news, etc.

      • Given the number of people who prefer netnews to dead tree news, y’all might want to reconsider your policy, especially for straight news blogs–certainly the case for the ABC site.

        As to the Holy Land, guess that’s a matter of debate. When my Christian friends say they’re traveling to the Holy Land, they mean Israel (including the territories). Those who travel elsewhere state, “I am going to Egypt, Syria, Jordan or (Middle Eastern country). This has been true for folks who fall in the fundamentalist fold, who identify as evangelicals, who are LDS, who are Catholic, and who belong to the more liberal denominations. Anyway, unless Rand used the term Holy Land, a phrase which means different things to different religious groups, the discussion should be limited to the countries he specified in his speech, some of which are not in the Middle East at all.

  2. Joe,

    In your last graf you put quotation marks around the words war on Christianity. I don’t mean to be obtuse, but why? I have to admit that my first reaction is that they are scare quotes. My next reaction is that they suggest a disbelief that there is a war on Christianity. Would you clarify, please, and save me from my lack of understanding? I’m sure that I’m missing something.

    • Oh, that was only to designate that I was referring to the quote by Sen. Paul. Personally, I certainly do think there is an increasing level of global persecution that could very well be described as a war on Christianity.

      • Thanks. I’ve ordered new batteries for my “quote-purpose detector.”

  3. the persecution of Christians in the Middle east has resulted in a massive exodus of Christians to the US and Europe and neighboring states. It could get worse: A couple hundred thousand educated Lebanese or Syrian Christians might not be a problem, but who will take ten million illiterate Copts?

    This has geopolitical importance, because many are Orthodox, and one reason behind Russia’s defense of Assad is to protect their co religionists (and Iran is backing Assad because of his Shiite ties).

    But you should also remember “the invisible man” in this: that there are over one million Catholics from other countries working in the middle east….we Filipinos know a country is in trouble when our workers arrive home…

    • Considering Israel’s anti-Filipino policies, maybe Paul is attacking Israel, and maybe he has a point. I had not thought about the Russian Orthodox connection to Syria, it is an interesting idea. I have no clue if it is true, and it has clearly not been mentioned in media reports.

  4. Joe –

    My assumption is that many (Christians and non-Christians) stateside struggle to actually believe that there is a war on Christianity globally – and certainly in the U.S. My assumption is that is because Christianity is still the dominant faith (in terms of how people identify) stateside and many struggle to see a dominant group as victims. I imagine that the generosity with which the term ‘war on (fill in the blank)’ is used – or the perceived generosity – further complicates this

  5. Considering that the opposition in Syria has been attacking Christians and other minority religions, it is very hard to see Paul’s claim that we are funding attacks on Christians as controversial.

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