Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Christmas Ain't Going Nowhere - Relax

Hugh Hewitt links to some columns dealing with a Newsweek story on the divinity (or lack thereof) in the nativity and asks what Newsweek's attempt at debunking the divinity of Jesus says about the MSM in his latest symposium.

I understand where Hugh is coming from on this but I think he may be just looking to pick a fight. Yes the media comes off as atheistic or agnostic but it has been that way for ages (remember the Gene Kelly reporter character in Inherit the Wind?). Yes Meacham is trying to be controversial with his column but doesn't controversy sell more magazine copies than stories about the world's biggest Christmas tree?

The flintlock to this firestorm is an article in Newsweek by Jon Meacham. Let me just say that Jon Meacham's scholarship and writing ability in this article are about as good as the psychoanalytic ability of the store shrink in A Miracle of 34th Street. I mean just look at Meacham's opening paragraph:
The news was unwelcome, baffling, frightening; nothing about it was expected or explicable. Roughly 2,000 years ago, according to the Gospel of Luke, in Nazareth of Galilee, a young woman found herself in the presence of Gabriel, the angelic messenger of the Lord whose name was known to Jews of the day as the mysterious figure who had granted Daniel his prophetic visions. The woman, Luke writes, was "a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David," and her name was Mary, Luke's Greek form of the Hebrew Miriam, the sister of Moses and the first great prophetess of Israel. "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee," Gabriel said, "blessed art thou amongst women"—terrifying Mary, who "was troubled at his saying." Stunned and confused, Mary made no reply, her face apparently betraying anxiety and awe. Sensing her confusion and fear, Gabriel was reassuring: "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God."
After reading this you'd expect the average Newsweek reader to sit "stunned and confused". Meacham loses about 99% of the Newsweek readers with this awful opening paragraph (the other 1% are the readers Hewitt sent over and told "read the whole thing").

(As an aside - Meacham does mention The Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus by John P. Meier as one of scholarly sources. I highly recommend this book but suggest you read it yourself and make up your own mind.)

Hugh first points to a column by Albert Mohler to refute Meacham. Mohler talks about Meacham using "an entire corps of liberal scholars" and that Meacham "makes extensive use of material drawn from liberal forces" and Mohler finishes up by saying "Jon Meacham is the classic self-congratulatory theological liberal". Liberal! Liberal! Liberal! I damn thee! No wonder Hugh Hewitt loves Albert Mohler!

The tone of Mohler's column was just angry. I mean at one one point I thought Mohler was so worked up that he was going to call Meacham nothing but a lousy Unitarian.

Hugh also points us to a series of articles written by Mark Roberts.

I must say that I enjoyed the articles by Roberts. I found the tone to be grandfatherly. It was as if Roberts was saying, "I know what they are trying to get you to believe but let me tell you the facts." Roberts then lays out a logical, forensic disenbowelment of Meacham's "argument" (MSM scare quotes - get it?).

Roberts breaks his argument into five sections but he really could have done it in one. In Part 2 he points out that 99.9999% of the people who care about Christmas agree on the basics. Roberts also points out that Meacham is only citing "scholars" who fall into the minority (even in liberal circles) as his sources.

In other words - Meacham is being biased in order to generate a controversy. Buyer beware. Or in more direct words - don't waste your time reading his tripe.

I think Hugh makes the mistake in thinking this is some sort of left attack on the right. It's just poor journalism (and poor writing if you ask me) and nothing else. The Democratic Party is home to literally millions of Catholics who could potentially also be alienated by this article by Meacham. There's no left wing conspiracy - just conspiracy meant to generate controversy - meant to generate magazine sales.

I don't deny the liberal bent of Newsweek and the MSM in general but I also differentiate between picking your fights and picking a fight. I think Hugh may be picking a fight here when he should just be shaking his head.

Frankly I'm disappointed in all the authors for not addressing the fact that virgin birth, death and resurrection of a savior figure is a pretty common motif among many religions. Did anyone go into the fact that Luke was a Greek and therefore maybe had a different viewpoint and audience for his writing than the other Gospel writers? These are the things I'd be interested in reading more about.

Christianity has always subsumed some of the remnants of the belief systems of the people they converted. When the Germanic tribes converted - the Christians said, "OK you accept Christianity and you can keep some of the yuletime traditions like that tree you like to decorate." When the Irish converted they said - "yes you accept Christianity and we'll let you decorate the cross with Celtic designs." If some of the virgin birth myths of Greek mythology crept into Christianity - so what? It doesn't alter the central teaching of Jesus "Love thy neighbor as thyself".

And isn't that what Christmas is all about?

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