Newsweek on abortion, hellfire and rumors

murphybrownOne of the problems with the mainstream media's rush to the gutter in the early days following her being named for the VP slot is that their entire reputation has been shot. So many people disliked what they saw and read in the first week that they've lost a level of trust with the media. It's important, though, to understand that the desire for information about Palin is legitimate and good and it's the point of having a press. And it may not be a big deal, but some who pushed some of the more disconcerting lines of attack against Palin conceded they went overboard. Here's a clip of Sally Quinn apologizing, in her special way, for some of what she wrote last week.

I had written up a long post about Hanna Rosin's surprisingly clueless rant in Slate about why evangelical Christians didn't like the choices made by fictional character Murphy Brown but didn't crucify Palin because her daughter is pregnant out of wedlock. It was an uncharacteristically poor piece (she at one point says something about Palin's "wreck of a home life" -- come again?) from a great religion reporter, but it was more punditry rather than straight reportage so I didn't post it. I had also looked at Slate Group editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg's piece that also focused on different reactions to fictional character Murphy Brown and the Palin family.

Anyway, Weisberg's Slate piece was picked up by Newsweek, which is all part of the same Washington Post media family. Media consolidation is fun. The begins by saying that conservatives in the 1980s framed the pro-life cause as part of a broader family-values agenda that included upholding the nuclear family. He argues that opposition to abortion and support of the nuclear family are at odds. He says that abortion is key to upholding the kind of family structure that conservatives believe in (two parents, no government assistance). He says that abortion gives people the chance to live the conservative dream. It's kind of a weird article. It is interesting to see the editor of a prominent publication unashamedly argue for the morality of abortion, using Bristol Palin's unborn child as a hook:

Forget the Juno scenario--in the real world, only a tiny fraction of unwed mothers give their babies up for adoption. If you do not allow teenage girls who accidentally become pregnant to have abortions, you are demanding either that they raise their children as single mothers or that they marry in shotgun weddings. By the numbers, neither choice is promising. Unmarried teenage moms seldom get much financial or emotional support from the fathers of their babies. They tend to drop out of high school and go on the dole, and they are prone to lives of poverty, frustration, and disorder. Only 2 percent of them make it through college by the age of 30. The Bristol Palin option doesn't promote family happiness, stability, or traditional structure, either. Of women under 18 who marry, whether because of pregnancy or not, nearly half divorce within 10 years--double the rate for those who wait until they're 25.

Clearly if she were conservative she should just have an abortion right now. Classy, Weisberg! Oh, and sorry about all your numbers being questionable. Weisberg then goes on to say he's "long expected" Republicans to drop their anti-abortion views. Which makes you kind of wonder how he became the editor of a Washington Post group publication. He blames "evangelical dominance" for what ails the Republican Party and repeatedly refers to pro-lifers as "anti-abortion extremists." It was slightly edited by the time it reached Newsweek so that Gov. Palin wasn't described as an extremist but, rather, a purist.

In all seriousness, I think this Palin-induced hysteria is good for a few things. Finding out what the editor of Slate Group thinks of pro-lifers and the morality of abortion is helpful, I guess. That Newsweek would think it worthy of publication is good to know, I guess.

Newsweek had a couple of other interesting religion pieces. Religion reporter Lisa Miller has a story about how the Palin pick totally kills the long-heralded moderation of evangelicals. You might not know that from the headline, which is, I kid you not:

A Religious-Right Revival The senior pastor of Palin's former church preaches hellfire for anyone who isn't saved by Jesus.

Well, that just isn't done in newsrooms! It brings to mind both Weiss' First Law of Religious Relativism:

Every religion is crazy, by definition, to an unbeliever.

junoPoster2And, of course, it also reminds me of the famous Tmatt Trio. I'm thinking of question #2:

(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6)?

That a Christian pastor would believe in hell is supposed to be shocking? That a Christian pastor would believe that Jesus saves is shocking? That a Christian pastor would preach exclusive truth is supposed to be shocking? Come again? What's really shocking is that Newsweek thinks this is shocking. Also: hellfire? Is this the best way we could present this doctrinal tenet? Everyone calm down.

It's a shame because the piece itself makes a really interesting point. These "new" evangelicals are supposed to care about a lot more issues than abortion. But being pro-life is foundational. With Palin's impeccable pro-life credentials, she's well liked by evangelicals. But do her other views match up with their broader agenda?

Younger Christians express disappointment that the rules of the game have changed so little. Cameron Strang is the 32-year-old publisher of the Christian magazine Relevant and an advocate for the new evangelical agenda. That evangelicals are pro-life is stipulated, he explains. But young Christians had become hopeful in recent years that they might look beyond abortion to other issues -- a change in perspective that could lead to a vote for Sen. Barack Obama. Palin backs these Christians into a corner. "She hasn't addressed issues of concern to younger Christian voters," says Strang. "All of a sudden, it's us versus them and you have to pick a side. With abortion as a wedge issue, it's going to be harder and harder for moderate Christians to feel OK supporting Obama." Everything new is old again. Palin's candidacy revives the religious right, the abortion debate and the pit-bull advocate for both. The only difference is the lipstick.

I guess we can add lipstick to ensoulment as the big buzzwords this year on the religion beat! (Incidentally, Washington Post's On Faith religion site currently features a Chicago Divinity School professor saying this about Palin:

Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.

Anywho, the final Newsweek story of note is a list of rumors about Palin that aren't true. One relates to an issue I covered a while back:

Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools. She has said that students should be allowed to "debate both sides" of the evolution question, but she also said creationism "doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

Now if only we could get these factchecks to Matt Damon!

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