Monday, January 24, 2005

Attitude Adjustments

When George W. Bush, an evangelical Christian, won 31 states and comfortably defeated the “smarter” true-blue liberal John Kerry, America’s cultural elites nearly had a meltdown. “The president got re-elected by dividing the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote. “… W. ran a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq–drawing a devoted flock of evangelicals.” Kind of reminiscent of The Washington Post’s snide comment several years ago that evangelicals are “poor, uneducated and easy to command.”

Yet while media bias against Bible-believing Christians may be perennial, it is no longer monolithic. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has called evangelicals “the new internationalists” for our work fighting genocide, slavery, and sex trafficking abroad. Several newspapers have beefed up their coverage of evangelicals–a good idea, since we constitute approximately one-third of the American public. Time magazine’s David Van Biema regularly takes the time not only to write about us, but also first to call, ask questions, and try to understand.

Another journalist who has been converted, so to speak, is Mark Pinsky of The Orlando Sentinel. Pinsky, a Jew and a self-professed “blue-stater” at heart, says in the January/February Columbia Journalism Review that he has experienced something of an epiphany while covering evangelicals for the last two decades. In central Florida, where believing Christians constitute the dominant culture, Pinsky began to see evangelicals as real people and not as caricatures.

“At PTA meetings, at Scouts, in the supermarket checkout line, and in my neighborhood I encountered evangelicals simply as people, rather than as subjects or sources of quotes for my stories,” Pinsky says. “Our children went to the same birthday parties. We sat next to each other in the bleachers while the kids played recreational sports. Our family doctor went on frequent mission trips and kept a New Testament in each examining room.”

Both professionally and privately, Pinsky saw that evangelical Christians don’t bite. Pinsky has observed that evangelicals are not monolithic, nor are they “poor, uneducated and easy to command.” Pinsky says we are more likely to be overzealous than hypocritical. He says we don’t “march in lockstep” according to what Jerry Falwell or James Dobson says, and we hold “surprisingly diverse views on many subjects.”

Pinsky agrees with evangelicals’ evaluation of pop culture as, “for the most part, a toxic mix of loveless sexuality and senseless violence.” Pinsky adds that while he rarely agrees with evangelicals politically or theologically, he has “developed a relationship of mutual trust and mutual relationship with the evangelical community.”

Such relationships are developing with other Jewish opinion leaders, too. Despite theological differences and an obviously painful shared history, Jews and evangelical Christians are seeking common ground on issues of mutual concern, drawing from the deep well of Judeo-Christian values. The largely liberal American Jewish Committee, for example, has taken steps to improve relations with evangelicals.

Dennis Prager and Michael Medved regularly endorse and defend evangelicals on the airwaves and in print. From former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s election-year endorsement of Bush to Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute joining forces with evangelical politicians in the cause of religious liberty, attitudes are changing.

“The shift among Jews is to see evangelical faith in a richer way,” Horowitz told Tony Carnes of Christianity Today. “There is an enormous movement in that direction.”

Starting to get a fair shake from the mainstream media and with friendships forming among the Jewish community, evangelicals are poised to begin erasing some of the larger society’s “fault lines” of fear, intolerance, and ignorance. And not a moment too soon.


Blogger stjones said...

Before you find too much encouragement in Kristof's remarks, note that he wrote the following in the NYT ( "The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time. The percentage of Americans who believe in the Virgin Birth actually rose five points in the latest poll." He concludes that "the Islamic world is in crisis today in large part because of a similar drift away from a rich intellectual tradition and toward the mystical. The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain." Not so different from Dowd's "jihad" comment.

I suspect that in his heart Kristof believes that Evangelicals are indeed "uneducated and easy to command." Why else would we so willingly trade intellectualism for mysticism? After all, you don't need a brain to oppose bad behavior abroad.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Misha said...

The thing I find interesting (and unexplainable) is that the non-Christian seems to view a Christian as being "mystical" and not rational. They seem to have a warped view of what Christianity is. "Faith" does not mean blindly following, and it doesn't mean putting your intellect on hold. To the contrary, having faith in something comes from realizing the reality of it. As Christ said, it's "the truth that sets you free."

11:30 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home