Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fox News: Balanced Between the Pernicious and the Absurd

One of my favorite portions of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church...and yes, I have favorite portions...dates from way, way back in 1789. It's that little bit early on about the importance of seeking truth, and how important that yearning for the true is to a life lived according to the standards of goodness and holiness. It states:
That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior's rule, "By their fruits ye shall know them." And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd that than which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as no consequence what a man's opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it. (G-1.0304)
This has always struck me as one of the most helpful portions of our often-dry constitution. Seeking truth and fighting through the filters of our selfish subjectivity tends to make us more open to loving those who are different. Those who care about the truth have a tendency to bear the fruits of the grace that Christ proclaimed.

Today, I stumbled across a particularly egregious-feeling bit of not-truth, one that troubled me deeply. It was over at..ahem..FoxNews.com.

Yeah, I know. Misrepresentation? On Fox? Surprise, surprise. But as much as I find Fox distasteful, they are still among the top 10 sources of online news. So for many, what they say is, well, news. It defines the perception of reality of a significant portion of the Yoo Ess of Ey.

The bit that caught my eye had this tagline: "Not Again: Meet Obama's Controversial New Pastor." To which I said, "Huh?" I know President Obama has been seriously slack in getting his sorry behind to church. As a pastor and DC denizen, I know he's not made a church selection...and, the way I see it, is unlikely to. So how could he have a new pastor?

Well...he doesn't. Not in any meaningful sense. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The pastor in question is Rev. Jim Wallis, a progressive evangelical and the founder of Sojourner's magazine. Rev. Wallis, though certainly liberal, is a pretty moderate voice. Wallis recently came out against some amazingly ignorant comments that had been made by Glenn Beck about "social justice," in which Beck had condemned a social justice emphasis as both fascistic and communist, and told folks to basically bail on any church that ever quoted from the Gospel of Luke.

So now, in a non-editorial piece that presents itself as news, Fox has declared that Jim Wallis isn't a "progressive evangelical." He is, instead, a "socialist activist who has championed communist causes." Sojourners, the magazine he publishes, is "a far-left magazine" that has, unsurprisingly, also "championed communist causes."

This really rather remarkable bit of 50s throwback agitprop comes to Fox unfiltered from an affiliated right wing group. It represents a perspective so utterly consumed by it's own worldview that the reality of who Jim Wallis is becomes irrelevant. Such a willful disregard for truth isn't just a bit of spin. It's not the sort of thing where you can say, well, gawrsh, that's just my opinion. I'm entitled to my OPINION, aren't I?

Perhaps, in so far as we all have the freedom to misrepresent and deceive to serve our own interests. In doing so, though, the fruits we bear are the farthest thing from the gracious and the holy.