The media analyzes religion

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on May 4, 2008

With the exception of the military, there is probably no subject that the mainstream media is less qualified to cover intelligently than religion. Case in point is Washington Post writer and "On Faith" co-host Sally Quinn's appearance on PBS' "Charlie Rose" show last week. Newsbusters' Tim Graham reports:

Sally Quinn came on with Rev. Floyd Flake, a former Congressman from New York, who also discussed this with Rose the first time Wright became controversial. Quinn tried to say that Obama’s greater condemnation of Wright would help Obama, but it was tragic.

In an interesting way, I think it may have helped Obama, because I think that by [Wright] coming out the way he did, he allowed Obama to come out much more forcefully the way he did today. And he had to. He had absolutely no choice.

But Charlie, there is something so incredibly sad about what happened today, because after listening to all of those people in the church last night talk about Reverend Wright, who has the most distinguished career, 36 years of doing incredible work, lionized by some of the great white theologians in this country, to see his career completely destroyed by three 20-second sound bites, all of the work he has done, his entire legacy gone down the drain, has been absolutely devastating to me -- to him, sorry.

And he`s gotten enormous numbers of death threats. His family`s been threatened. It`s been a horrible experience. So I think that played in to part of why he came out. He couldn`t stand it another minute to say, this is what`s going to be left of me, this is what`s going to be remembered.

Then the racism talk kicked in:

So for Obama to have to be forced to distance himself in this way has got to be extremely painful for both of them. But I think because we are still a racist country, that there are so many white Americans who have absolutely no idea what goes on inside of black churches on Sunday morning. I think it was Obama who said, certainly Reverend Wright said, that the most segregated hour in this country every week is on Sunday morning, because that`s when blacks go to their churches and whites go to their churches. And I think that so many white people who had never been inside a black church were absolutely shocked by the tone and language that they heard, and it was so unfamiliar to them, it was like a different culture. And I think it brought out a lot of latent racism.

At the segment’s end, Quinn really let loose on white church-goers:

And a message of black liberation theology is basically Confucius` message of do unto others as you would have others do unto you. We are our brother`s keepers. Obama has said that many times. But you look at a lot of the white Christians, and we`re 90 percent religious in this country. Most people in this country are Christians, and you look at the Christians and they go to their white churches. And you wonder how they can call themselves Christians and still look at other people as though they are inferior.

The problem with Quinn’s theory is that most American churches are not "white churches," but churches that are not 98 percent black. They may have a majority of whites, but have a very diverse distribution of races.

A few things to note:

First, the Post was the paper that once famously described conservative Christians as "poor, uneducated and easy to command."

Second, Quinn was last seen here at Hoystory decrying a meaningless House resolution that said nice things about Christians. Her reversal to defend a Christian "theology" that is embraced only by a liberal extreme is telling. She is far more interested, and focused on politics, than religion. Quinn is such a caricature of a secular liberal that it's almost sad.

Finally, how does an avowed atheist like Quinn get a job hosting a discussion on faith? (If your answer has sometihng to do with who her husband is, then you'd be right.)

On a related note: I'm disappointed in Tony Campolo. A pastor and author, Campolo is someone who should know better than to embrace and/or defend a theology that has next to nothing to do with Christian faith.

Certainly, Jeremiah Wright is advocating neither Marxism nor violent revolution. What Rev. Wright does say is that, as the African-American community endeavors to establish itself as a people who are both equal with whites and deserving of the dignity that God wills for all human beings, they have God on their side.

Rev. Wright’s words may seem harsh and his style may be strident, but that just may be the way that those of us in the white establishment react. For his African-American brothers and sisters, there may be a different reaction. Many of them will hear him as an angry prophet in the tradition of ancient Israel.

To we white folks, Jeremiah Wright sounds threatening. But we might ask ourselves if we deserve to be threatened.

Switch the races there -- as many on the Internet have done with Trinity United's statement of black values -- and put down a bet on whether or not Campolo himself would be decrying the person who wrote it as a racist.

In a second-day story last week on the Fox News Channel, a reporter quoted a black minister who had it exactly right in reaction to Wright's speech: "There isn't a black church. There isn't a white church. There's only a Christian church."

At least somebody is getting this right.

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