I flunked NPR’s test

I flunked NPR’s test January 20, 2016

Last week I was invited by NPR (national) to participate in an on-air discussion of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. First, they said, I needed to have a pre-interview.

An assistant editor in Washington gave me the pre-interview last Friday.  She said the discussion was prompted by the Wheaton College controversy, but would focus on theology not campus politics.

We had what I thought was a good pre-interview.  I told the woman, who said she was Jewish, that the question was simple but demands a complex answer because God and religions are complex.  I explained, as I have done in these blogposts, that one must say Yes and No to this question.

Yes, all worship the same God ontologically if they want to address “the only God there is.”  But No because they have very different views of that one God.  In particular, Christians and Muslims differ on God’s oneness, power, nature,  love, and identity with Jesus.

When I told her that Jews and Christians have far more theological unity than Muslims and Christians, she seemed intrigued.  We talked about that for a while.

Then she told me we would have the on-air discussion today (Wednesday).  I thought things had gone swimmingly.

Until I got an email two days ago from her boss, the producer, who said I was not “neutral” enough.  They would proceed without me.  I asked her what she meant by “neutral” but got no response.

Isn’t that odd?  NPR thinks it is neutral in the ways it treats religion and politics.  Most conservatives who listen to NPR would say NPR is anything but neutral.  Some joke that their features show ought to be called “All Things Distorted.”

If postmodernity has shown anything, it is that no one is neutral on ultimate things like religion.  That doesn’t mean we are free to distort and spin because we know we cannot be neutral.  We should strive for objectivity while humbly admitting we all have our own perspectives.  John Stackhouse is excellent on this in his book Humble Apologetics.  

But the greatest threat to objectivity is the self-delusion that we are neutral on ultimate things.  It is an impossibility.  And silly when a show treating religion claims this.  Far better, and far more interesting, if it would interview people who have strong–but diverse–points of view.

Perhaps you will hear this NPR discussion.  Let me know how neutral it sounds to you.


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