Religious Bias in the Media

In the November 8th issue of the New York Times, Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the paper, took one of their theater critics to task for his review of Terrance McNally’s play Corpus Christi, a play about the Last Supper. (

“Set in Corpus Christi, Tex., where McNally grew up, it turns the story of Jesus and his disciples into a parable about the persecution of gays. Along the way, it pushes what have to be hot buttons for many Christians. Jesus is born in a shabby motel room; loud, abusive heterosexual sex takes place in the room next door; Joseph is a boorish, profane carpenter; Mary isn’t much of a mother; Jesus discovers he is gay and has sex (not on stage) with the young men who become his disciples; he performs miracles, officiates at a gay wedding, is ultimately betrayed by Judas and is crucified.”

Hoyt criticized the critic for making no mention that the play could offend the sensibilities of a large Christian public, Catholics among them. (He heard from a large number of Catholics prompted by the fiery Bill Donohue)  Hoyt said the review lacked objectivity. Indirectly, he also criticized the editor of the Times for standing behind  the review.

I wrote to Hoyt afterwards:

“Thanks for the way you dealt with the Corpus Christi review. Freedom of speech isn’t an absolute right to say anything you think or please. Speech is a gift for communicating, hard as it is.

Talking to ourselves and our own gang isn’t enough. That’s what your reviewer did, in my opinion.

Listening is a gift too. Thanks for hearing Donohue. He can be hard to take.”

I’m afraid this one-sided presentation rules the media nowadays, and I don’t see much effort to confront it. I saw a presentation by the National Geographic last night on the life of Jesus and I was ready to throw a shoe at the television. National Geographic, in its religious presentations, is especially offensive to mainline Christian belief, it seems. You also see the same thing at times on the History Channel.

For one thing, Catholics and others like the Eastern Orthodox and mainline Protestants  are hardly represented  at all, and if they are mentioned  they seem somewhat reactionary. The scholars, most of whom I don’t recognize, are predominantly from the opposite side.

The Catholic Church, in these presentations, is often seen as a tainted source.

It’s usually Catholics who are singled out for their regressive opinions. Sometimes they’re pictured as conspirators holding back the tide of truth. That was the way they were pictured the other night in a program on the Dead Sea Scrolls. A bunch of Dominican priests, “Vatican agents,” controlled the scrolls when they were discovered, so that the “truth” would not get out, according to one television source.

Anyone aware of the history of the Dominicans in the Holy Land would know they were hardly Vatican agents. Just the opposite. They were progressive scholars, often at odds with Rome at the time.

Unfortunately, most of our people get their information about the bible and religion from the media. They are reading books and magazines less and less. They often ask me about it and I do what I can, but we need help. As churchgoing becomes rarer, the media will become for many their sole source of religious knowledge.

We need media apologists. God help us.

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