Isn't it simply Easter season, when fresh Gnostic gospels or dubious ossuaries show up like spring daffodils?
Americans are accustomed to cultural elites trying to undermine their religious faith during Lent, Passover and Easter – but it's never been this bad.
Beginning on February 26, the news media and arts community have fired a stunning barrage of criticism at religious beliefs, religious practice, and religious symbols. Nothing is too sacred to attack this year, not even the most crucial teachings of Judaism and Christianity.
A History Channel program scheduled for Easter Sunday will question whether the Bible is God's complete revelation to mankind.
The current – Holy Week – issue of Newsweek teases readers with the headline “Is God Real?,” and features a debate between a prominent evangelical pastor and an outspoken atheist.
An April 3 New York Times article dismisses the story of Moses parting the
This year's Easter “Hit” Parade began just five days after the beginning of Lent with a February 26 press conference.
Larry King mounted an uncharacteristically feisty defense of Jacobovici's documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” while hosting a February 26 CNN interview/debate between Cameron, Jacobovici, evangelical theologian Albert Mohler, and Catholic League president William Donohue. King asked Mohler, “…aren't you, as an intelligent person, open to the possibility of new things?...why not be open to at least think about it, talk about it, look at it? Don't you want to inquire or just not accept anything that is introduced?” Nevertheless, Cameron, Jacobovici and the Discovery Channel soon found themselves staggering under a crushing weight of academic pressure. Jewish, Christian and secular archaeologists and linguists coalesced into a perfect storm of scholarly criticism, laying bare Jacobovici's dubious assumptions and faulty logic. By the time the documentary aired on Sunday, March 4, the Discovery Channel was scrambling furiously to distance itself from “The Lost Tomb.”
Undeterred by the Lost Tomb debacle, the media's Easter “Hit” Parade marched on. A March 4 New York Times Magazine piece, “
The March 7 NBC Today Show promoted a book by Father Andrew Greeley, who said that today Jesus would be a radical feminist. Though Isaiah 53 describes the Savior as “having “no form or comeliness, and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him,”
Time magazine's March 7 edition featured a story titled “Early Christianity's Martyrdom Debate.” Author David van Biema described radical Princeton Professor Elaine Pagels, champion of the heretical Gnostic Gospels, as “about the nearest thing there is to a superstar in the realm of Christian history scholarship.” In her new book, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, Pagels claims that the author of the second century Gospel of Judas – and presumably other early Christians – opposed the encouragement of martyrdom “with what he thought were false promises – huge rewards in heaven, and guaranteed resurrection.” This during the season Christians celebrate Jesus' martyrdom and resurrection.
On March 13, Washington Post writer Philip Kennicott applauded former PBS newsman Robert MacNeil for slamming “religious fundamentalism,” particularly the influence of American fundamentalists on politics, education and public morality. During his Kennedy Center speech to Americans for the Arts, MacNeil suggested that the “initial psychology” of American Christian and Jewish fundamentalists is “similar to that which inspires Islamic reformers,” and decried “the swing to Puritanism” fostered by political groups “pandering to those who could be persuaded that art is decadent, or immoral, or homosexual, and destructive of finer values.”
Newsweek's March 19 edition featured a cover story promoting evolution and also ran Lisa Miller's column demonizing prominent evangelical leader Dr. James Dobson as “the religious right's standard bearer and junkyard dog.”
On March 21, a Washington Post column promoted the novel The Gospel According to Judas. Authors Jeffrey Archer and the Rev. Francis J. Moloney, former theological adviser to Pope Benedict XVI, consider their book a response to “deeply flawed and uninformed works” such as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. However, the novel denies that Jesus worked miracles such as walking on water, and claims Jesus was the natural offspring of Joseph and Mary.
Suddenly, after three weeks of unceasing attacks on faith, a rose appeared amongst the media thorns. Time magazine's April 2 issue, available several days earlier online, featured a cover story by David van Biema arguing persuasively that the Bible, “the most influential book ever written,” should be taught in public schools. Another story in the same issue, “Saving New Orleans with Faith?” acknowledged that church-related groups have led the effort to rebuild
However, the attacks on religion quickly resumed. On March 28, the news broke that artist Cosimo Cavallaro planned to display “Sweet Jesus,” a six-foot-tall, anatomically correct, milk chocolate sculpture of the crucified Savior during Holy Week at an art gallery located in a
Under pressure from the Catholic League, the hotel canceled the “Sweet Jesus” display on March 30. That evening, CNN's
No sooner had “Sweet Jesus” been canceled in
National Public Radio's Fresh Air with Terry Gross weighed in on March 28 and 29, broadcasting interviews with atheist Richard Dawkins and Christian Francis Collins, who have famously debated God's existence.
On March 29, Time magazine posted a story titled “Pastors' Wives Come Together.” The story cites studies finding that 80 percent of pastors' wives say they feel unappreciated or unaccepted by their husbands' congregations and wish their husbands would choose another profession, and that the divorce rate among ministers and their wives is 50 percent, “no better than that of the general public.”
The Washington Post chose to question whether Jesus was really resurrected in a March 31 story, “A Debate for the Millennia: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” The story, by Daniel Burke of Religion News Service, quotes expert witnesses on both sides of the debate, but fairness and balance isn't the issue. The real question is why did the Post decide to raise this particular subject just before the beginning of Holy Week?
Also on March 31, The New York Times suggested that a “secret” gospel of Mark may describe “Jesus initiating his disciples” with a “homosexual rite.” In his article, “Was It a Hoax? Debate on a 'Secret Mark' Gospel Resumes,” reporter Peter Steinfels acknowledges that the scholar who supposedly discovered the text in 1958,
The March 31 Times also ran a piece by guest columnist Stanley Fish challenging the Time magazine article promoting the teaching of the Bible in public schools.
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On April 2, USA Today ran a column by Tom Krattenmaker comparing “fundamentalist” Catholics and evangelical Christians to violent Muslims.
On April 3, a New York Times story quoted Dr. Zahi Hawass, “
On April 4, author Susan Jacoby posted a column on the Newsweek/Washington Post Web site, “The Silly Season of the Supernatural.” Jacoby asserts: “You either believe that Jesus rose from the dead or you don't. The proposition is not subject to any kind of natural proof.” What does Jacoby mean by “natural proof?” No historical event can be reproduced in a laboratory, so we cannot prove anything about Jesus “scientifically.” However, abundant “forensic” or historical evidence supports the Resurrection, to wit the eyewitness accounts recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Belief in the Resurrection is not based on blind faith, as Jacoby suggests.
Finally, Newsweek's April 9 issue – available now, during Holy Week – features a debate about God's existence between evangelist Rick Warren and atheist Sam Harris.
As of this writing (April 4) the Easter “Hit” Parade is still marching on. According to WorldNetDaily, BBC Radio is scheduled to broadcast on April 4 a lecture by “gay” Church of England priest the Rev. Jeffrey John. John is expected to assert that “Christianity's traditional teaching on Christ's crucifixion for the sins of mankind is 'repulsive,' 'insane' and makes 'God sound like a psychopath.'”
On April 7, the History Channel is scheduled to broadcast “The Way of the Cross,” an episode of its series, “In the Footsteps of Jesus.” The episode investigates whether science “supports or refutes biblical accounts” of Jesus' last supper, arrest and trial.
On Easter Sunday, April 8, the History Channel has scheduled a special, “Banned from the Bible,” which examines “ancient writings that didn't 'make the cut' in the battle to create a Christian Bible in the new religion's first few centuries. Biblical archaeologists and scholars examine why they were left out and if others might yet be found.” This special threatens to undermine the essential Christian belief that the books of the Bible were given to the church by God, who supervised the human efforts to determine which books were truly inspired by God.
We should pray the History Channel does a more honest job with “Banned from the Bible” than the Discovery Channel did with the “Lost Tomb of Jesus.” But we should expect the worst.