Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Great Divide

A friend sent me an article at work today that struck a chord. At first, it was a chord of trying to understand a differing world view. Then as I read the article again, and it sank in, I was angry. Now, after most of the day to reflect, I am more melancholy about it.

I am greatly saddened by the genuine divide in understanding that we have in our country. So great, in fact, that it is difficult for people of even the best of intentions to understand and have respect for the other's opinion across this chasm.

This chasm is that of the greatest of questions; does God exist? The author of this article, James Carroll, is obviously a secular humanist. His apparent belief system is that religion is simply a cultural heritage and a way of marking time and honoring one's ethnicity. Because if someone truly believed that God exists, and that He truly created the universe and all that is in it, then one who believed this could not possibly have written this article. Logically, it isn't possible, unless this person is ignorant of or hostile to, God. As a good Christian, I will assume the author lives a life insulated from true believers in Christ and God and that this man is one of good intent and general good nature by our society's standards.

But I feel that I must respond to the article. Almost every single sentence begs a response. This post will cover only the title, which I found to be a conversation topic all on its own.

The title is, "The War Room is No Place for a Bible Study". Catchy. Snarky. Sarcastic...and presumptuous and condescending all at once. The word "scoffer" comes to mind. The article is brimming with scorn and derision. The Bible has a few words about that. I will leave it to those interested and that have a concordance to look up those words and find the many passages, but I will quote one that struck me;

"A scoffer seeks wisdom, but finds none..." Proverbs 14:6a

My initial response as a Christian, is that the War Room is an excellent place for a Bible study. No other endeavor could use the guidance of Our Lord more urgently or desparately that those in positions where they are making life and death decisions for thousands of people. What an idiotic comment, foolish presumption and clueless understanding of the basic purpose of a faith in an everlasting, merciful, God. Every President in the history of our country looked to spiritual leadership during crisis and decision-making, including great liberal lions such as FDR and JFK. Abraham Lincoln read portions of Job every day during the Civil War and his reasons for his actions are reasoned and justified by scripture at every turn. The rationale for the very founding of our country was steeped in religious readings and analogies and most of the Founding Fathers felt that God had made America a special place for His works. There was a special Providence at work in the New World. To suggest that wartime leaders cannot pray and refer to the Bible in time of decision-making is simply - silly.

From a secular perspective, having a Bible-study in the War Room may be as apropo as having a Bar Mitzva or a Baptism - good food and music, but hardly fitting for the dirty work of killing people around the globe. The absolute faith that faith has no place in any place other than cultural ceremonies which are private is and must be girded by the belief that faith in God has no actual or practical meaning. A Confirmation or adult Baptism has no more meaning than a Fraternity initiation. A wedding is no more valuable than a business contract. And none of it is serious enough to be entertained in the serious business of national security.

It is very difficult, if not impossible to explain how horrible this attitude is for Christians to hear and see. It is basically a complete dismissal of God. This is not a casual funny comment, but rather an open hostility that is damning - literally.

The next major hurdle with the title is that it isn't even true. There was no Bible-study in the war room. The article is about top secret memos, passed between men of faith, that had pictures of US servicemen and women, with scripture passages captioned on the photos. There is no Bible-study going on. In fact, there wasn't even a war room involved. It was just people of faith, communicating in a deeply personal and meaningful manner. You see people that actually read the Bible come to rely upon it. They revere it for its infinite ability to say just the right thing in any circumstance. They pass scripture passages to each other as encouragement, enlightenment, rebuke, or sometimes just simple fellowship. I understand the need to take artistic license in an editorial to make a deeper, more poetic point, but the author's use of the term "Bible-study" was not just his attempt at a sarcastic one-liner or a search for a poetic deeper meaning. It was dishonest and a complete disregard for truth, revealing an ignorance and disdain for people of faith rather than any deep, philosophical significance. There is not one aspect of the title that is true in any sense. It merely reflects a judgment made by one who is hostile to the subject of the article with no adherence to fact.

"A faithful witness will not lie, but a false witness speaks lies."
Proverbs 14:5

You see, modern "journalists" no longer consider truth very important, especially in editorials. The emotional content of their writing is far more important than its adherence to truth and fact. Nowhere is this more evident than in Keith Olbermann in general, and specifically with his review of Cheney's speech last week;

"The delusional claims he has made this day could be proved by
documentation and first-hand testimony to be the literal truth, and still he
himself would be wrong..."

In other words, how you feel about something is more important than the truth. Olbermann doesn't care about the facts unless they support his position and unless the color of the language suits his emotional bent of the piece he is writing or, more accurately, performing. His complete hatred of Bush and Cheney ooze out of every pore while he rants and is unbefitting a supposed "anchor" on a "news" station or network.

This mindset isn't found solely in editorial comments, but even supposed hard news stories are scarcely constrained by the limits of what was once considered journalistic integrity. Dan Rather defended his use of forged Texas National Guard documents because he claimed that although they were forged, the assertions that these false documents alleged were true. Jayson Blaire gets away with complete fabrications for months in the New York Times of all places before he is called out and discovered, not by the NYT, but readers and bloggers. The New Republic published several completely fabricated stories of horrific behavior by US servicemen in Iraq, written by a soldier over there. To the soldier the stories were so foolish and obvious fabrications, but to the editorial board at TNR, the "truth" of the article was so compelling that they didn't use a single shred of essential skill that commanders are supposed to have, but apparently not magazine and newspaper editors. From his own article:

"Commanders, especially, need the skill of skepticism - the opposite of
true belief."

During the 2004 election, the news agencies and outlets were stunned when W won reelection due to the heavy turnout of the evangelical Christian. It was a complete blindside. They had no concept that these people were out there. Suddenly, newsrooms around the country were sending reporters into the wild, and dark reaches of...upstate New York. Ohio. Nebraska. Georgia. Tennessee. Texas. Not a single newsroom in America had an evangelical Christian in their midst. Over the years, the career of the newspaperman changed from being populated with "reporters", to being manned by "journalists". Journalism schools sprouted up all over, and they went Ivy League. Journalism was now a profession, in their own minds in the same category as an M.D. or Lawyer. In fact, there are many journalists with law degrees today. This transition was so successful that there aren't too many regular folks out there anymore that are reporting the news. The subtle shift was not merely education, but a spiritual one. Because also during this shift, reporters became less like America and more like an elite group of secular humanist, college educated, liberal metro-sexuals. They lost touch with the heartbeat of their own country.

The newsrooms are helping drive the chasm and cultural divide in the country ever wider as fewer people find themselves able to trust, not only their editorial commentary, but even their judgment in reporting basic facts.

Carroll himself exhibits this same mindset in this article, starting with the title. The remainder of the article belies either a blatant disregard for people of faith, a complete ignorance of them, or a deep-seated hostility of them and God Himself. I think it is a mixture of all of the above and will attempt to show you why in future posts.

Part II coming soon...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You've touched on a new way of viewing the Red State/Blue State divide. I look forward to Part Deux. That story seems like a caricature to me...and what if it's really true?! Makes me want to laugh at the reporter and say "sour grapes."

    Then I see this, and my blood starts to boil:

    "...Broyles said, "The county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' 'Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' 'Yes.'"

    "The county employee notified the couple that the small Bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of County regulations, according to Broyles.

    "Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed "unlawful use of land" and told them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit" -- a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars..."