Was the New York Times Easter error no big deal?

The New York Times has been taking quite a bit of heat for its shockingly erroneous understanding of Christianity. Earlier this week, it published a brief story about Pope Francis' Easter message and went on to say that "Easter is the celebration of the resurrection into heaven of Jesus, three days after he was crucified, the premise for the Christian belief in an everlasting life." Now, there are many things wrong with that line, as my kindergartner could tell you.

I thought my write-up of the piece was pretty mild. But reader Joshua wrote:

Ok, I understand the error and the argument of how egregious the difference in meanings are, but … call me crazy, I don’t understand the effusive, scornful finger-pointing hoopla over it. It’s not a religious newspaper, and errors happen.

And reader Jeffrey Weiss, well known as a religion-news beat professional, wrote:

Even Homer nods, as the saying goes, and even LeBron tosses the occasional airball. I’d not be quite so fast to dump the NYT for what is a bonehead mistake. For those of you of a particular religious tilt: It’s a human institution and all such are inevitably fallen, yes? Even in these reduced times, I’d put the Times record of accuracy up against most of the rest of the world. Surely tens of thousands of facts a day. In this case, the story showed up on a holiday, of course, where the editing crew is likely skeletal. People who really know Easter probably weren’t working. That’s not an excuse, of course. It’s a major unforced error.

Because I'm a human who errs with alarming frequency, I'm inclined to be understanding and I sure do love how Weiss puts the best construction on the folks working the Easter shift at the Times. And yet I am not sure I agree. Anyone who has gone through a New York Times editing process knows that there really are layers and layers of fact-checking and it boggles the mind that the error could have been made by a Vatican reporter, much less made it through that editing process on the way to press.

The Canadian scribe and human-rights activist Mark Steyn wondered -- as relates to the correction and the initial mistake -- "How could any expensively credentialed J-school grad type those words?":

Where I think Michael [Walsh] understates the case is when he says that it reveals the Times as know-nothings to 1.2 billion Catholics. Leaving aside the massed ranks of Anglicans, Methodists et al, it exposes the Times to believers and non-believers alike as culturally ignorant. The Bible underpins a big chunk of western art, music, and literature, and not to know its basic concepts is to condemn yourself to bobbing around in the shallows.

He goes on to give an example (my mind immediately thought "in the shallows" an apt way to describe a recent New York Times review of a Christian memoir) and adds:

Not to know any of this stuff, to be as tone-deaf to it as that Times correction, is to be entirely unmoored from your cultural inheritance – regardless of one’s “faith tradition” (as Al Gore would put it). I contributed a couple of arts pieces to the Times years ago, so I know a bit about the extraordinary layers of editors between the author and the page, and it’s remarkable that not one person up the chain raised an eyebrow over “resurrection into heaven” before it hit the streets. Judging from leftie reaction to the “correction”, to the hyper-secularists, ignorance of the peripheral tenets of a minor cult is a badge of honor. In reality, America’s supposed “newspaper of record” has just announced itself to the world as civilizationally illiterate.

It's difficult to take the Times' copious critiques of Catholicism and religion in general seriously when it is as illiterate as this on the most fundamental of Christian doctrines. Defenses of this and the many similar mistakes we've seen in recent years ring more than a bit hollow. And yet, as Weiss notes, mistakes happen.

What do you think? No big deal? Or a foretaste of the feast of ignorance to come?*

*This is an allusion to a Christian phrase.

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