How stupid is the press?

A link that blog regular Herb provides in a recent comment asks the not-so-musical question, "Are reporters too stupid to get religion?"

The simple answer is, "Yes."

But that’s a little too simple. I should elaborate. Journalists pride themselves (many of them do, anyway; I certainly did during my news days) on being jacks of all trades and masters of none. At a dinner party, they can usually dazzle an uncritical listener with how much they know about many things — and it works as long as no one probes too deep. But there are several things that most reporters at most newspapers don’t know much at all about (and I hope you’re not including TV people as "reporters," as very few of them get anything):

  • Religion — I have the impression (but no stats to back it up) that the press is slightly more secular than the public at large. I mean that in two ways: First, on a personal level — lots of journalists have never been to church or have quit going (for some reason, the profession seems to draw a lot of "fallen-away" Catholics) — but also professionally. There are still plenty of people of faith in newsrooms, but relatively few who take a sufficient interest in religions other than their own, to the extent that they could write authoritatively about them. You’ll find that’s also true of the general population, but in most fields, journalists make it their business to pick up a little something about everything around them, whether it touches them personally or not. Here’s where the professional tendency comes in. The secular notion that seeps through all of society — that religion is a private matter, with no place in the public sphere — is as prevalent in newsrooms as in the corridors of government. This dampens — in the area of religion — the natural tendency journalists usually have to pry into things that are "none of their business." Most every paper has one or two people who are an exception to this rule — who take a keen interest in religion as religion, beyond their own personal beliefs. Those are the people who are specifically assigned to cover the subject. The problem, and the blundering, tends to come in when you have folks from other beats jumping in to help out on a religion story. While you can take, say, a political reporter and have him go cover a crime story and rely on him to know what to do, that’s just not as true with the religion beat. And given the unpredictable ebb and flow of news, there are always going to be people covering things outside their usual areas.
  • The Military — There are about as few veterans in newsrooms as you find in most white-collar workplaces where most of the people are under the age of 50. Most journalists, unless they have had personal experience or have worked hard to learn about the military sphere of life, know less about it than they do about other lines of work they have never done personally. For instance, almost no journalists have ever been lawyers, cops or politicians. But they interact with those people a LOT more than they do with people in military service. There just aren’t as many opportunities to hang with the military as there are with, say, cops. Therefore, less learning occurs.
  • Weapons of any kind — It might seem like this might fall under "military," but the problem extends far beyond that sphere. All reporters at some time end up doing a basic crime story. And that’s where they are likely to embarrass themselves seriously. How bad is it? I have during my career as an editor run across many a malaprop such as, "Police say the suspect fired at the clerk with a shotgun, but the bullet missed him." And I’ve seen things just as bad as that get into the paper — meaning that several people failed to realize that shotguns don’t fire "bullets."
  • Money — Math tends not to be journalists’ strong suit. They were good at writing in school, not numbers, and to many people who think nothing of whipping together from scratch a 1,000-word news story requiring multiple sources in a couple of hours, figuring out a percentage change is seen as heavy lifting. This gets worse when the number involve money. Journalists tend to be less interested in money than the average person; its mystique doesn’t grab them, and they don’t grasp it. Most reporters are bright enough to have made a lot more money doing something else. But that didn’t interest them enough.
  • Science/Medicine — You see a lot of "health news" in newspapers these days. What you don’t see is a lot of reporting that represents a sense of perspective or in-depth knowledge on these issues. This is improving somewhat, but most journalists are a long way from having the kind of easy familiarity with the sciences, including medical science, that they do with crime, punishment and politics. One reason, among many, would be that they generally don’t interact with physicians or physicists any more than they do with the military.

Anyone who IS conversant with in any of those areas can pretty well write his or her own ticket. Business writers — if they’re any good — are in high demand. Religion writers are in demand, but a little less so, as few papers have more than one or two religion writers, and they have entire staffs devoted to business. Supply and demand.

Few mid-sized papers have anyone devoted to military affairs. But when they do, if that person gets any good at it, once again you have a high-demand commodity. For instance, I was Dave Moniz‘s editor when we started the military beat back in the early ’90s. It was terra incognita for Dave, but he worked hard to develop expertise, and to break down the natural suspicion and even hostility with which most military people regard representatives of the press (I grew up in the military, so I know all about this alienation, and fully understand why it’s there). Anyway, Dave had only done that a handful of years before he went to USAToday to cover the same beat. You’ll see his byline on their front page from time to time.

62 thoughts on “How stupid is the press?

  1. Mike C

    I thought the military reporting San Diego’s North County Times did was superb, worthy of a Pulitzer. I just noticed that they’ve added multimedia presentations too. Cool.
    Reporting on religion is often controversial. Aren’t journalists tagged as “religious reporters” and consequently regarded as being different from reporters who cover run-of-the-mill politics, business, and debauchery? (I almost wrote “reporters having the sign of Cain,” but thought better of it after googling around a bit and getting quire confused.) Of all types of reporting, that dealing with religion has got to be the most difficult simply because it’s so easy to upset folks inadvertently. It’s usually easy to see political spin and not hard to report facts when covering politics, but religious coverage has got to be a challenge.

  2. Herb

    Brad and Mike, you guys ought to charge tuition — I’m serious; this blog is a free education. And I want to say thanks to both of you. I know that doesn’t come very often on these pages, but I mean it.
    As I’ve said before, I haven’t often met a person that I couldn’t learn something from, which includes most, if not all, of the contributors here But some are a lot more helpful than others. I might think of more to write later, but right now, I’ve said what I can think to say.
    The links you both gave are very helpful.

  3. Mike C

    Herb – I should have swithched from the shooters and beer to the espresso when you did.
    Speaking of mathematics mastery, here’s a reporter helping consumers:

    The latest Census Bureau report shows median prices for new residences sold in December fell 1.5 percent from the previous month to $221,800. Half of the homes sold for more than the median, the rest for less.

    Who’d ‘ve ever thunk…
    (HatTip to Best of the Web.)
    While I’m at it, here’s fair warning of one area where journalists and the media need to be careful about
    which religions they make fun of. Christianity is okay — them Christians get a little riled up, but they’re usually docile. Hey, a crucifix in urine, Christ’s mother in dung, or an idiot rapper in a crown of thorns on the cover of the Rolling Stone are free expression, no? And everybody can make fun of the Jews, right? But it looks like Muslims take such offenses quite seriously.
    While former US president Bill Clinton described the cartoons as “appalling” during an economic conference in the Qatari capital Doha, a poll published Saturday showed that most Danes felt their government should not apologize over the cartoons.

  4. Herb

    “Freedom of expression is an internal Danish issue but this has a totally different dimension,” Peder Tuborgh said. “This is about Denmark having offended millions of Muslims.”

    Mike, this is a constant phenomenon. Say anything critical about Islam, and there is an uproar, and usually someone ends up apologizing. It all goes back to a fundamental difference in attitude, which I’m sure you are aware of, but others may not be. Muhammad promoted a religion of power. Jesus, who was by calling a suffering servant, was despised and rejected. This makes the type of reaction (forgiveness) shown in The End of the Spear (the film is not perfect, but well worth seeing) totally incomprehensible in the mind of Muslims, which is why I do not see a good basis possible for democracy in an Islamic country. Of course if Islam is tempered by other forces, democracy can perhaps work, but that is not the way things are moving at present.

  5. Steve Aiken

    It’s no mystery that the only Islamic countries that are making progress toward freedom are those that have been heavily influenced by the West, either because they were under Western rule for a long time (e.g., Indonesia) or because they’re more secular (Turkey). Islamic traditions don’t include the Renaissance, Reformation, or Enlightenment, all of which have heavily influenced the “freedom mentality” in the West.

  6. Lee

    The State has not a single reporter capable of covering technology issues, whether it is industry, medicine or some news item.

  7. Herb

    The “stronger” the faith, the more close-minded the believer to hearing other perspectives. In other words, faith and interest in others views are generally inversely related.

    Sadly this often true, but for Christians, it shouldn’t be. It’s one of the reasons I did an extra M.A. in Islamic Studies. The very nature of evangelical Christianity requires that the message be shared, so with that in mind, the greatest missionary of all time shows a pretty good understanding of the people he is approaching, and what is more important, his attitude is a lot different from many who call themselves evangelical today.
    For Christians, whether people convert or not, friendship, which involves understanding, should always be paramount. I just had a long, amiable conversation with a man of another religion today. We finished with much mutual respect for one another, and I value him greatly as a friend. That doesn’t mean I can compromise on what I believe, however. But he doesn’t expect me to.

  8. Dave

    Ann Coulter wrote that the only way to deal with Muslims is to “conquer them, kill their leaders, and forcibly convert them all to Christianity.” That is a close paraphrase, not direct quote. On the surface, that statement is outrageous, but at some far distant point in the future may be the ONLY solution to the conflict of religions and cultures. By the way, my reading tells me that Mohammed, after founding his home made religion in about the 10th century A.D., made war against Hebrews and pagan tribes and killed their leaders, enslaved the men, and forcibly converted the women and children to Islam. So, turnabout may be fair play on this.

    The Koran calls for a perpetual war against any non-Islamic culture, so we do have a war. We would have had one all along but the Muslims never had the money to wage war. They do now, oil money. Many in western civilization cannot or will not believe that they would be destroyed simply because they are not Muslim. Does anyone remember the Ottoman Empire? It’s back.

  9. Mike C

    Courtesy of PowerLine Blog come these two scrumptious examples of reporters and their knowledge of religion.
    Faux pas one comes from Rolling Stone as reported by ABC:

    Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, a potential presidential candidate, said Monday he meant no offense to homosexuals when he used the word “fruits” in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
    In a lengthy profile titled “God’s Senator,” the magazine quotes the Kansas Republican as criticizing countries like Sweden that allow civil unions between same-sex couples.
    “You’ll know them by their fruits,” Brownback said, quoting a biblical passage from Matthew 7:19.
    Rolling Stone writer Jeff Sharlet said in the story, appearing in the magazine’s current issue, that Brownback appeared to be calling gay Swedes “fruits,” a derogatory term for homosexuals.

    The second is courtesy of Newsweek in an article about Evangelical colleges’ enthusiastic embrace of college debate, in which Falwell’s Liberty University is currently ranked number one in the country. Newsweek quoted Falwell as follows:

    We are training debaters who can perform assault ministry, meaning becoming the conscience of the culture.

    The correction explains:

    Correction: In the original version of this report, NEWSWEEK misquoted Falwell as referring to “assault ministry.” In fact, Falwell was referring to “a salt ministry”—a reference to Matthew 5:13, where Jesus says “Ye are the salt of the earth.” We regret the error.

    Good ole Zombie times offers Depictions of Mohammed Throughout History, from the arts, advertising (?German bouillon?), and satire. (Caution: vulgarities appear in the cartoons, but are well used.)

  10. Capital A

    Lee, you, the herald of the reel to reel recorder and the 78, are calling The State out concerning its coverage of technology?
    Thanks for the laugh-inducing irony. It never goes out of style.

  11. Herb

    It was the seventh century (look up the article on Muhammad) when Muhammad founded Islam (though Muslims would not say it that way). Though in a way, you are almost right, because the first real sources about Islamic history are, unlike New Testament documents, over 200 years old (look up the article on John Wansbrough).
    If this is what Ann Coulter said, it should be repudiated. First of all, we should never, ever, become like extremist Muslim fundamentalists. Bin Laden would be glad if we did, but if it happens he will have won. We must be firm, yes. We must be wise, yes. But we must never give in to the desire to go in and “nuke ’em.” And forcible conversion to Christianity is a repudiation of Christianity. I am convinced that Christianity profoundly influenced the form of democracy in this country (though it never was, at any time, a “Christian country”). But for Christians to start behaving again like we did during the Crusades doesn’t help anybody, and ultimately undermines our democracy, robbing it of one of the sources of its energy.
    Don’t forget that Muslims are people. I have many friends among them. The more moderate (and that is many) don’t want extremism. And the extremists are growing in areas of the world where young people basically have no hope. If you saw where they live, as some of us have had the privilege of doing, you might understand better why many of them buy into the ideas of Sayyid Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood (see the article under that title).
    The Qur’an itself is very inconsistent. There are passages that promote peace, and passages that do the opposite. Whoever reads it will get out of what they are looking for. It is actually the “Hadith”, or traditions, where more of the belligerence comes out.

  12. Mike C

    Capital A –
    In Lee’s defense, there are still loads of folks who swear that analog recordings offer greater fidelity, primarily because more information is captured with a greater dynamic range. Their argument is:

    – the sampling rate for digital recordings is too low and the frequency range is capped at 20 kHz.
    – harmonics occurring above 20kHz are sensed and do provide greater fidelity.

    A top of the line reel-to-reel does blow one’s socks off.
    The reality is that while I have a top-notch vintage stereo (Harmon-Kardon Citation pre-amp and amps, HK Rabco ST-7 turntable, Teac C-1 cassette deck), I never listen to it. I’m going to sell my vinyl or use it for target practice and just use a walkman with good headsets. It’s easier.

  13. Capital A

    Mike, stomp a Styx album for me.
    You did a fine job of condensing the argument of these people, and if I am hearing their side correctly, they think that since digital comes from analog, that digital is somehow less, when in reality, digitally is how music should have been presented all along. Numbers return to numbers, in a sense.
    Can we all just resist the reverie, go here(, scroll down to the last quarter of the page, return, and repeat together–“Papa Jazz is closed forever.”?

  14. Mike C

    Capital A –
    Not quite. In a sense we see and hear in analog. There are tradeoffs involved in digitizing. For example, a still camera with 2 megapixel resolution store less image data than a 4 megapixel camera does. The 4 megapixel picture is more accurate because more information is captured. That’s why the file produced by a 4 megapixel camera is larger. You can really see the difference when you blow up the 2 megapixel and 4 megapixel images; the 4 megapixel remains clearer as you increase the viewing size. Of late the best digital cameras are producing images equivalent to the best film cameras at about the same price, so we’ll see the latter gradually disappear.
    The issue audiophiles have had with CDs is that the sampling rate — amount of information stored per second — is a compromise and was set in the early days of digital recording; it’s too low or slow. Rather like a fuzzy picture taken with a cheap (e.g., 1.2 megapixel) camera, the music sounds different, less full.
    The really, really big advantage of digital recording is the copy — there’s no degradation over generations of copies because you’re copying bits. With analog recordings, the very best reel-to-reel produces a slightly lower fidelity copy to another great reel-to-reel. As copies of copies are made, the degradation becomes evident. It’s a lot like a photocopier copy of a photocopier copy of a photocopier copy of photocopier copy. Pretty soon it becomes hard to read.
    There’s one other thing about analog high fidelity — the fiddling. And the never-ending quest for perfection. I’ve reverted to the “good enough” mode since I can’t play my analog collection loud enough to really enjoy it and don’t have the money to continue the pursuit.
    Age does that.

  15. Capital A

    I hereby nominate Mike C for the paid position of tech writer for The State. He gave the best, most lucid pro-analog argument I’ve seen proffered in years.
    Mike, what about range of sound, though? Digital has the tops in that department, surely. Don’t forget the issues of hiss and background noise, as well. I don’t want to hear EMF unless (for some Godforsaken reason) I buy the same-named band’s self-titled album.

  16. Herb

    Though in a way, you are almost right, because the first real sources about Islamic history are, unlike New Testament documents, over 200 years old (look up the article on John Wansbrough).

    I should read my postings more thoroughly before I post them. What I meant was that the sources for Muslim history are documents that were written over 200 years after Muhammad. The Qur’an itself probably developed over an 80 year period (i.e. it did not drop from heaven as the Muslims claim, though not all Muslims claim it is eternal (for obvious reasons, since those who do have a problem of something being co-equal with God. Not a problem for Christians, if Jesus is the Eternal Word, but definitely a problem for Muslims, who then worship a book.

    Don’t forget that Muslims are people. I have many friends among them.

    Not true. I have a few friends among them. My wife has told me a million times not to exaggerate.
    Capital A., I would say that the NT is pretty consistent, especially when you take in the different viewpoints of the writers. And if we take the principle of interpretation that Jesus himself gave, then we can include the Old Testament as well. I am tempted to ask you for a list of your supposed inconsistencies, but I am afraid I would get the standard, old hacked-over list, starting with “where did Cain get his wife?”.
    I would rather ask you what your Scripture, or to use a more (post-) modern word, metanarrative is, and I just bet that, when all is said and done, I will still prefer mine.
    Of course you know how to push my buttons, don’t you! Go Clemson!

  17. Herb

    Oh, and Capital A., no gracious Christian in his right mind should use Chick tracts (which already proves how ungracious and judgmental I am). Aside from the “attack mode” of these publications, the use of Robert Morey’s views on Islam is often inflammatory and unnecessary. (I’ve seen Morey’s videos, where he deliberately mimics a Middle-Eastern accent and makes fun of Muslim people.)
    More than likely “Allah” simply comes from the same cognate root as “El” and “Elohim”, so Arabic-speaking Christians still use, as in pre-Islamic times, the name to refer to God. Robert Morey’s thesis about the moon-god being Allah is unproven at best, and in any case useless for any kind of dialog.

  18. Herb

    Every religious text is inconsistent. This is not aided when we in 2006 America try to live by the rules of a patriarchal society streamlined for thousands of years prior.

    I once heard a pastor in Germany explain why we shouldn’t sing “All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above . . .”, since its lines about “sowing seed and harvesting the fruits” (loose translation from the German) are irrelevant in our society today.
    This seems arrogant to me. Was God supposed to clothe His guidelines to us in 20th-century language? Why can’t we be humble enough to apply principles that should be universal for everyone? And a lot more people live in a patriarchal world still today than we like to admit. Of course if we think that modern-man has already evolved beyond these primitive ideas, then what do I say? But we may be in for a rude awakening . . . .

  19. Lee

    TECHNOLOGY – Capital A____ seems to have not noticed that The State (like the Charlotte Observer and Atlanta Constitution) wants to be a player in all latest technology/business/taxpayer giveaways, but doesn’t want to hire anyone with expertise in technology to cover the subjects. For us experts, it would not require a full-time effort to do a weekly column. Many of us write now for magazines.
    Their inability to perform critical assessments of the information being fed to them means they can do little more than reprint press releases and other smoke blown their way.
    RELIGION – Knowledge Ridder fired their religion editor, along with many other local writers.
    MILITARY – With all the military experts in this town, what is the paper’s excuse for not hiring any of them to write military feature articles and deeper news analysis?
    FIREARMS – The experts in the community have extended several invitations to reporters and editors to come to training classes. Most refused, apparently afraid that becoming informed would threaten their ability to maintain their bigotry. A women did come to a handgun training class. One TV news reporter became an enthusiastic shooter.

  20. Mike C

    Capital A –
    In theory digital can have a greater dynamic range but all that is set in the recording process and subsequent processing. Many recordings have a squished (compressed) dynamic range (soft sounds are boosted, louder sounds suppressed) so that you can hear more of the recording. This is especially important in your vehicle where road noise, kids, screaming pedestrians, etc. can crimp your enjoyment of a tune. At home in a quite listening setting you might enjoy a wide dynamic range, getting the sense of a live session where the quiet stuff is quiet and the loud parts scream – with a high-quality recording you can hear the hammer-key linkage and pedals in a piano operate. But if you’re doodling around with power tools, you probably want a compressed dynamic range.
    What I used to do is compress recordings for use in the car. I’d slap a vinyl on the ST-7, fiddle with the arm, set up a high-quality tape in the C-1, then set my dBx 119 (a Decilinear compressor limiter) to compress the dynamic range. I also had an SAE-5000 in line to use where there was a scratch on an old disk. For playback in a car’s cassette deck, this was fine.
    Dolby reduces / eliminates perceived hiss by boosting the highs during recording and then attenuating them during playback. dBx sort of does the same thing too, but you have to encode when recording then decode when playing back.
    Today we have a choice. Just remember that the CD too has tradeoffs that limit the accuracy of what’s on it. But CDs and DVDs do last a lot longer; their content should not degrade (although there are reports of delamination).

  21. Mike C

    One more thing. Those who use Ipods or similar devices and really want to get the best sound should get the best headsets they can afford. I’d google “ipod headsets” and then look for consumer evaluations.

  22. Brad Warthen

    Couple or three points for Lee:
    — I don’t understand the reference to "Knowledge Ridder." Who is it you’re saying fired their religion writer? It wasn’t The State.
    — The answer to ANY question that contains within it the thought "why don’t you hire (blank)" is this: We’re not hiring anybody in our newsroom (or up in my shop, either), for any purpose. We’re not replacing people who leave. Even if their role is far more vital to the process of getting the pages produced each night (such as a layout person) than an area specialist, we’re doing without. If you want to know why this is happening at a newspaper that makes extremely healthy profits, I refer you to this.
    — I enjoy shooting; always have — although I much prefer a rifle to a handgun (I can’t hit a thing with the latter). I haven’t done it in a while, partly for the same reason I haven’t been fishing or to the beach or played golf — I’m far too busy for "enthusiasms," as DeNiro put it in "The Untouchables."

  23. Capital A

    Herb, I think that Jack Chick is the greatest unintentional humorist since Ed Wood. Honestly. I say that without cynicism.
    I would also agree that the NT is the much more consistent text to pattern your life after. This is my personal life choice, anyway. Jesus’ inspiration set right what was originally just a text to hold together a specific culture during its various (often self-induced) plights while also reinforcing the desired male-dominance of that same culture.
    I appreciate you preternaturally sussing out my as-yet unexpressed arguments concerning the inadequate common sense of the OT. That was very Chickian…or, at least, Sylvia Brownian.
    I was actually going to point to the limitless ridiculous rules of the OT concerning diet and hygiene (no pork, no females in church for 7 days after their periods). Technology has overruled such silliness. I won’t even get into the sudden personality shift of the NT God from that of the OT. I certainly wouldn’t mention stoning people for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Those matters deserve blogs all their own.
    By no means am I finding fault with God, rather with Man’s interpretation of God’s Will and Word. I was actually challenging your humility as a Christian adherent in what was, seemingly, judgment of Islam while ignoring the same offending traits in your own religion.
    All in all, I guess I’m saying ideologies are the veils which blind us to the true nature of God. There was a God before sects, you know?
    Why not just follow our hearts? We shouldn’t need a text to teach us how to treat our fellow men, just as we don’t need one to teach us how to condemn them.
    I guess I’m just not sivilized. I’m your Huckleberry.

  24. Herb

    Don’t need a text, eh. I’ll think some more about that one.
    I will wager that we really don’t know how much our society has been shaped by the Bible. I don’t think the “follow your heart” approach works. As I said before, go see The End of the Spear. I have a suspicion that we’d all be like that without something written down. Sort of like the teenager who made his girlfriend pregnant, “I was just following my heart.”
    Everybody talks about the Judeao-Christian ethic, but where do you think it comes from? How about the documents?

  25. Capital A

    Mike, I note your points. They are well stated and perfectly valid. I guess I just get lazy when I type and I should state that — for my purposes — CD and DVD/HDVD video/audio are the way to go. I only care about the “perfect” sound when I am in the ultimate setting you mentioned– a relatively controlled home environment.
    When I am in my car, I know there is no way to get the perfect sound so any trade off between digital and analog is a moot point for me. I don’t even try or am not even concerned with what I’m “losing” there.
    I do applaud your efforts and determination to do so where mine are lacking, though. As I said, if I had vote for The State techie, you’d get it.
    Your posts are more fun and enlightening than your nearest competition’s as he just can’t seem to shake his chosen role as anti-Ridder revolutionary.

  26. Mike C

    Capital A –
    Thanks for the kind words. I generally aim to convince folks and am usually reluctant to cast aspersions, but sometimes some folks do get to me.
    By the way, here’s an update on the cartoons in Europe. It seems that the cartoons were reprinted Wednesday in the French newspaper France Soir and in Germany’s Die Welt. The papers asserted a “right to caricature God” and a “right to blasphemy,” respectively. Somehow I don’t think that The State will assert either, since that’s the province of Pat Robertson…
    In the UK, a race and religious hatred bill appears to have been toned down a bit to preserve some semblance of free speech. From what I can tell, it was the House of Lords, the metric equivalent of the US Senate, that did the dilution through two amendments. This move is viewed as a defeat for Blair’s party; many Labour MPs voted for the amendments.

  27. Herb

    Just had another thought, Capital A.
    If you want to speak to kids, you have to use kid’s language. (You should see me goofing around on the floor with my grandkids!) That’s what a lot of OT laws are. The Israelites didn’t invent circumcision; a lot of other nations practiced it, too. What happens in the OT is that a cultural norm is taken and filled with new content that fits God’s reality. The other nations practiced circumcision at puberty (ouch!). Among Abraham’s people (Genesis 17), it signified something completely different.

  28. Herb

    Great to hear about the toning down of the “hate bill” in England. A lot of my evangelical friends in the U.K. will be relieved. One scholar I know debates regularly with Muslims at Hyde Park. If this bill had passed, he would have been effectively muzzled, but I doubt that the Muslims would have been. Instead, everybody else would have to keep on apologizing to them.

  29. Herb

    Mike, I think there was fear that this would be applied too broadly. There have been situations where Muslims were sitting in a church teaching service on Islam and brought accusations about any criticism of their religion. Evangelicals in British churches have got to be able to give a critical analysis of another system of belief, without a threat of a lawsuit.
    To those who are interested:
    OK, I promised I would keep you guys up to date. Here is what one pastor said who has an overview of the landscape here:
    “If I want to get some kind of faith-based initiative going to help the public schools, especially in the rural areas, I’d
    . . . ask the Presbyterians to plan it.
    . . . ask the Episcopalians to fund it.
    . . . ask the Catholics to do the work
    . . . ask the Baptists if there was anything that needed to be taught . . .
    . . . ask the Methodists to develop a methodical approach
    . . . ask the Pentecostals to do any visitation work among the down and outs”
    and I forgot what he said about the Lutherans.
    Apparently there are quite a few faith-based initiatives to help kids after school hours, especially in churches, but in quite a lot of them, they are just walking the kids through and collecting the federal money.
    One thing is plain, and that is that just starting another program isn’t going to do it. It is going to have to be some motivated people who get together.
    In the rural areas, it is also going to have to involve the majority denominations; which apparently west of the Saluda is Lutheran and Methodist. I’m not really familiar with the exact denominational landscape of SC. I don’t figure that I have to be right now. I just know enough from my time in Europe that a community can be involved in the schools, and somehow what once was here in SC can perhaps happen again. We’ll have to find the right people to run this, if it really happens.
    But for right now, I’m trying to start small, and just build a small core of pastors who are a bit savvy, have a love for kids, and aren’t out to establish their own denominational program. That in itself will be a miracle.

  30. Herb

    And I’m thinking that what may be needed is some kind of a network of what would be basically small community-based programs. There would be a need for some kind of central organization that would offer a program “franchise” that a rural community could adopt. The program would need to have complete guidelines for academic standards, for the responsibilites and boundaries of the donor churches and receiving churches, and especially make sure that volunteers from the churches are properly screened and trained.
    It looks like to me that a program won’t work unless it is somehow reflecting the values of the local community. Maybe, too, one would have to match Lutheran donor churches with Lutheran receiving ones, for example? I don’t know. Just thinking out loud at this point. I don’t like to do too much of that and expose my ignorance.

  31. Mike C

    Herb –
    Thanks for the update. But don’t you need some Unitarians to question its utility and Jews to argue about it?
    On a serious note, that’s why a curriculum, guidebooks, and the other expensive-to-develop stuff are needed. I say expensive because it takes about forty hours to develop one hour of platform instruction. If the teaching is to be of any help, it must be in a form and format that moderately educated folks can deliver. Otherwise it’s uneven and inefficient.
    The state (or federal funds for such a great experiment) is the logical source, especially given the court ruling.

  32. Capital A

    Herb, I just know a lot of people would be out of business if more people followed their hearts. A good thing, in my opinion…
    Are you denying that aspects or recognition of God are not already within us at birth or, at least, develop as a natural result of human experience? If not, what then is the soul or its use?
    Also, I often argue that the very culture that created the OT is highly similar to that which the US currently sees as its anachronistic enemy. Today’s fundamentalist Islam and its cults make perfect, symmetrical bookends with fundamentalist Judaism and its cults of centuries ago.
    Herb, are these Robert Morey videos available for sale? Is this guy still active, as in still engaging in public seminars?
    I honestly love unintentional humor the most, and I’ve grown tired of Walker, Texas Ranger reruns. Maybe Morey’s musings may prove magnificently moronic…
    Mike, that was another enlightening link. I think the issue is more about those in power versus the powerless, rather than a religious fight. Evangelical Christians I’ve known fail to see or plan for a day when they aren’t in power and when all the laws that they think will boost them in the present, may come back like Cain’s ghost to haunt them when they are a little lower down on the layercake. What then? Pray for rapture?
    I still don’t get this idea of Christians playing the role of the victim. It’s like me crying foul when an opposing player in basketball called me “whiteboy” or “cracker”. My response was to laugh and laugh all the way to the basket because, down deep, if we’re honest, we know who is in power.

  33. Herb

    Capital A, what do you mean by evangelicals being in power? If you mean Bush, that’s a joke. Not that I don’t believe that he is sincere, but we all know that the government is made up of a whole lot of people who run it, and by no means are the majority of those people evangelicals.
    Evangelicals may have more influence than they did ten years ago, but even that is debatable. Every administration is going to cow-tow to them somehow, simply because they are a big voting block.
    And as to what evangelicals will be doing in the future, I hope very fervently they will be doing as one of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, suggests:

    The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.

    And Mike, here is one of Bonhoeffer’s for us to ponder:

    The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.

  34. Capital A

    I would the comment is very factual. I wasn’t saying that it was morally right or the way things “should be.” I was saying that it IS.
    Knee-jerk political correctness is what is more disturbing to me.

  35. Capital A

    Herb, Christians are in power in the United States, both politically and socially. It’s not atheists or agnostics. We, Christians, are. More specifically, white male, middle and upper class Christians are.
    Let’s stop wearing the emperor’s old clothes, shall me? Christ was never a victim and never should we be.

  36. Herb

    Capital A, I guess I have trouble responding to your postings because too much is not precise for me. For example,

    “. . . may come back like Cain’s ghost to haunt them . . .”

    I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

  37. Herb

    And you referred to “evangelical Christians,” which is a different group than just referring to Christians in general. I know that, in Germany, approximately one-third of baptized Protestants are either atheists or agnostics. The number is probably lower here, but the point is that the name on a church roll is not the significant factor.

  38. Capital A

    Herb, I’m referrring to the US, usually. I’l try to be more precise in the future concerning that. Evangelicals are just an extremely active arm of those who are in power, was my point.
    Herb, you have trouble responding to my posts because you are more of a literalist. I try to put a little art into matters where you would prefer more matter and less art.
    I like to let the reader have some fun in interpretation in places where it hopefully won’t affect the point I’m making. Very NT of me…

  39. Capital A

    To elucidate: Cain killed his own brother, his own kind, right? I was making an allusion to him and his Biblical brother.
    Those future generations who are striving to protect their right to lobby people with their religious views (almost unchecked) may not be so happy previous generations won the day when they no longer are members of the dominant religion. They may be currently, allegorically striking down the comfort and happiness of brothers and sisters to come. Also, in my experience, those fighting for this cause are often very blunt in their “missionarying” after a certain period of graciousness has expired. I always imagined Abel dying from blunt force trauma. If I claimed anything deeper than that in my posting, I’d really be reaching down into sheaoal for a bottle of milk.
    My style isn’t for everyone; I’m the first to admit. But it’s mine and mine alone…
    As far as the main issue at hand concerns me, I just wish the same pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses would stop knocking on my door every other Saturday at 9:19 AM while I’m trying to catch up on sleep I’ve more than earned during the work week. Stereotypical, but true…

  40. Dave

    The genuine mistake that most people in the western world make is identifying Islam as a religion. Yes, they have mosques as meeting places, they have Immans as their pastors or ministers, and they have a book they equate to a Bible. Guess what, so do Scientologists. And many other illegitimate forms of pseudo religions. Islam is actually a form of political dogma that wraps itself in religion to obtain some form of credibility. If you don’t agree, tell me how many Presbyterian sects set out to rule countries, or Catholic, you get the picture. Yet, the mullahs openly state that their goal is to take over and govern nations. So, those who want to can call Islam a religion all they want, your choice. Europe is slowly but surely learning the hard way. As the Muslims multiply they get more hostile and direct about replacing the western socialist governments that have invited them in. It is all coming to a head in that regard but how soon no one knows. The Muslim rioting in France is one sign.

    Do I hate Muslims? No, but I really don’t want them in this nation. Communism was outlawed in the 50’s because of their disloyalty to our country and form of government. Hopefully we will see the day when this happens to our Religion of Peace (what a fraud that is) Muslims.

  41. Herb

    Yes, they are just going to exit the country. Unless Dave is suggesting a “final solution to the Muslim question,” which might seem far-fetched, but nurturing such ideas might lead us further than we think. In any case, this attitude will eventually make us just like our enemies, in which case, they have won.
    As I stated in another post, the point is to differentiate between the different strands in the “rope” of Islam. Be firm, yes. Stand up to ridiculous behavior, by all means. But let’s stay in the real world, OK? The majority of Muslims are very decent people, and hospitable to a fault.

  42. Herb

    And as for religions ruling countries, I seem to remember that Catholicism has been pretty heavy handed in a lot of places, and Calvin’s Geneva was not a nice place for Anabaptists. The Puritans flogged Obadiah Holmes for preaching Baptist doctrine in Massachusetts.
    That is all small stuff in comparison to Islamic terrorism, that is true. I would just like to plead that he who is without sin cast the first stone. People are going to believe in something, because man in religious by nature. It would be much better to try and show them the truth through a passionate vision of what religion can be than to try and make them like the apathetic materialists we have too often become in this country.
    A good stint in Afghanistan as a foreign aid worker might start the ball rolling . . .

  43. Lee

    Brad, I am not picking on The State, which is too small to afford a full-time writer covering technology. The parent company certainly could hire several and let them provide general articles of national interest to all the papers, and let them assist local writers on things like new businesses, instead of just reprinting the smoke blown by local politicians, PR offices and academics.

  44. Lee

    One great contribution to music made possible by digital recording is the ability to manually edit each note and restore old recordings and soundtracks.
    Another is to employ digital signal processing algorithms in the form of programmable DSP chips to clean up noise on old recordings, and on new CDs as their surfaces degrade.

  45. Dave

    Yes, Herb, and the King of England sent Oliver Cromwell and his army to Ireland to physically destroy all Catholic churches and imprison anyone who still claimed loyalty to Rome. Evil work that was for sure but this is 2006 now and you have Muslims publically calling for the genocide of a democratic nation. That is not rhetoric, that is official Muslim policy. And you can toy with the implicit Hitler analogy all you want. I don’t want any Muslims in America killed, only deported if they are not loyal to this nation. Is that too much to ask of citizens in a law abiding nation in this day? Or do we have to be multi-culturally tolerant to the point where they cut your head off in a fatwa? You can love the Muslims to your heart’s content but hate what many of the Muslims do. Actions have consequences so I for one want actions taken in this country. Think back on 9-11 and let us all know how many Muslims condemned the evil actions. If I remember, to this day most Muslims believed that the Joos destroyed the World Trade Towers. Once again, the Religion of Peace.

  46. Capital A

    After that last post, still a Clemson fan, Herb?
    Where’re your orange messiahs now? Nyahh, Nyaah? (Edgar G. Robinson voice)

  47. Capital A

    Make that “Edward G. Robinson.” May I start an offering for an EDIT button? It would certainly help guard against spelling double indemnities.

  48. Lee

    The only reason Muslims have the right to practice their faith in America is because of the Christians here.

  49. Capital A

    Our greatest legal scribe and third President, a Deist, had a little something to do with that, too.
    Darn facts…

  50. Herb

    Tolerance for Christians in Turkey is pretty much a facade. It exists on paper, but not in reality. The only Muslim country with any real tolerance of Christians is Mali, West Africa.

  51. Dave

    Herb, I am glad to see you post the intolerance information. When Muslims eventually gain the upper hand in several EU countries, Christians there will suffer. Followers of Islam like to claim that there are more than 1 billion worldwide. What they ignore is that these people have NO freedom of religious choice. There are a billion Catholics, by choice. Muslim nations require adherance, or else. Again, I say this is not a religion as I would define it, but a political and cultural program masquerading as a religion. When women are defined as property, and a man can marry as many as he can buy, that fact alone is enough to refute any claims of holiness. This is the political cause for the illiterate masses of the world.

  52. Herb

    Balance is the word. And that involves, to some extent, accepting the world as it is while still stating the truth. Deporting millions of people is not the way to deal with the problem.

  53. Lee

    Why is deporting troublemakers not a solution?
    Deportation of the illegal immigrants here would certainly save this country $100 BILLION annually in welfare, law enforcement and prison costs.

  54. Dave

    Herb, I see your point clearly and don’t expect that the US would be in the business of deporting every Muslim in the land. Illegal immigrants is another matter and we can never survive as a nation by rewarding those who broke the law to enter this nation.

    Muslim Immans in this country who are preaching overthrow of the US government should be locked up or deported without a doubt. That is the seed of the problem in the first place, elder clerics who poison the minds of youthful and impressionable followers. These types of mosques operate freely in nearly every state of this nation and it has been a mistake to “tolerate” it.

  55. Herb

    I was not referring to illegal immigrants, though I doubt that is that simple, or even necessarily desireable. My reference was to the deportation of disloyal Muslims, and how do you define that, especially since Dave openly admits that he doesn’t want them here?
    We cannot get by the hard work and balance that needs to be struck between being firm with criminals and being tolerant of religions. The moment we start outlawing a religion (and Islam is one — despite Dave’s characterization of it) per se, or forcing conversion to Christianity (heaven forbid), we will become like those we are disdaining.
    I repeat again (for what purpose, I am not sure), that not all Muslims are terrorists. Most that I meet are just decent people, and many genuinely seek after God, and I am happy to talk with them about it. In fact it is easier to talk with them about it than some other people.
    And lest you quote the Qur’an and the Hadith at me, I know pretty well what they say about jihad and a number of other topics. I am aware of the sections that promote war, which many Muslims, probably the majority of them, apply to themselves and their inner struggles against sin (I wish more of us might do the same, by the way).
    I realize that Muslim tactics need to be exposed, and there is no easy way around the confrontation. But if anybody starts going down to the local mosque and harassing or deporting Muslims who have not been criminally charged for real crimes by a court of law, rest assured I will be there with them, defending their right to believe in Islam.
    Thus ends my “give me liberty, or give me death” speech.

  56. Herb

    Oops, sorry Dave, I did not see your last post before I posted. I would not have written what I did . . . maybe.

  57. Lee

    You can be tolerant of the Muslim religion without being cowed into permitting possible Muslim terrorists to travel to, or remain in, America.
    Since 2002, there have been 174,000 non-Mexican illegal immigrants arrested who came across the Mexican border. 1,800 of them were from Arabic or Persian countries known to have terrorist organizations. Several members of Al Qaeda were captured at the Mexican border last week. Yet we continue to permit thousands of Arabs to legally immigate to America.

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