THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
(Read Ephesians 6.10-20)
Vital Questions: The Gospel in the Context of Seismic Change
Ours has been an epoch of whistle blowers. With the 25th anniversary of Alex Haley's book, Roots (1967) had shown America's failure to affirm freedom; we have moved from a melting pot to a nation of multicultural entitlement culture. We had President Nixon and Watergate (1970's), President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (1990's) and Ken Lay and the Enron bankruptcy (2002). Bernard Goldberg's outcry against media bias ended up with his dismissal. Where has the Church been in all of these changes? Is there an authentic Voice of The People?
Must Christians arm for the conflict by a strategy to combat "cultural creep?" (see esp. William Proctor, The Gospel According to the New York Times: How the World's Most Powerful News Organization Shapes Your Mind (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 2000) .
News Media stars Dan Rather, Tom Brokow and Peter Jennings are some Post Modern voices on left wing T.V. bias. Yet the September 11, 2001 national catastrophe of unparalleled magnitude exposed media's elites' capacity of Truth Telling. While Roger Ailes of Fox News said that the Media divides Americans into two groups-Moderates, and Right Wing Nuts. Now Bernard Goldberg (CBS insider who exposes the Media distortion of the news and author of the new book Bias (Regnery Press, 2002), fell like a nuclear bombshell on the media elite.
Goldberg succinctly elucidates our present communication crisis. “Liberal bias is expressed in The New York Times on every crucial social issue in our Post Modern culture”. The entire issue centers on a conflict of World Views.
. . .This is why Phyllis Schafly is a conservative woman who heads that conservative organization but Patricia Ireland is merely head of NOW. No liberal labels necessary. Robert Bork is a conservative judge; Lawrence Tribe is a noted Harvard law professor. Rush Limbaugh is a conservative talk show host; Rosie O'Donnell is simply Rosie O'Donnell, no matter how many liberal opinions she shares with her audience. . . That's why media stars can so easily talk about "right wing" Republicans and "right wing Christians" and "right wing Miami Cubans" and "right wing" radio talk hosts. But the only time they utter the words "left wing" is when they're talking about an airplane.
All "right wing" groups have an agenda with an axe to grind. But "left wing" liberals don't need to be identified because their news on all big issues from abortion and gun control to the death penalty and affirmative action aren't liberal views at all; they're simply reasonable views shaped by all the reasonable people the media elite mingle with at all their reasonable dinner parties in Manhattan and Georgetown." (Bernard Goldberg, Bias, p. 222.)
What is the gospel according to ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The New York Times? When Peter Jennings was asked about liberal bias by Larry King Live (May 15, 2001) Jennings replied, "that bias is largely in the eyes of the beholder." The data is to be found in contrast to the New York Times not Deep Throat sources in a parking garage at three o'clock a.m. but in the network stars and editors of the New York Times. The media stars plus the NYT are the singly most powerful shaping forces in our Post Modern culture (only multicultural pluralism and Outcome Based Education is even remotely a competitive force.).
The New York Times proclaims via postmodern "fundamentalism, " the new American faith. It prints all the bias that is "fit" to print. The Times welcomes its readers to the world of "cultural creep!" The cultural spirit of The Times is an expression of (1) Globalism and Multiculturalism: (2) The Spirit of Total Sexual Freedom: (3) Spirits of Environmentalism and Entitlement; and (4) The Spirit of Scientism and Humanism.
The New York Times preaches the gospel of "Seven Deadly Sins:" (1) The Sin of Religious Certainty; (2) The Sin of Conservatism; (3) The Sin of Capital Punishment; (4) The Sin of Broken Public Trust; (5) The Sin of The Second Amendment; (6) The Sin of Censorship; and (7) The Sin of Limiting Abortion.
At the heart of these cultural mazes is the idea that Intolerance is the ONLY mortal sin! The Times ubiquitously uses "intolerance" and "bigotry", both words that The Times likes to bandy about. A 365-day search of The Times website archives, running from August 1998 to August 1999 revealed that the paper ran 119 articles on intolerance that year, or almost one every third day. A search for the word "bigotry" turned up even more - 122 articles (see my articles, "Idols in The Temple of Tolerance" and "Chameleons in The Temple of Tolerance."
On the Limits of Tolerance in the lead article in the March 6, 1999 "Arts and Ideas" was given front page coverage. The story was entitled, "Testing the Limits of Tolerance as Cultures Mix--Does Freedom Mean Accepting Rituals That Repel the West?" The article espoused the limits of Tolerance, especially when the practices of other cultures conflict with the absolutes espoused by The Times.
The author of this article was Barabara Crossette; she highlights the Third World practice deplored by The Times such as female circumcision among Somali parents. The fundamental question Crossett asked was: "How do democracies, pluralistic societies like the USA, based on religious and cultural tolerance, respond to customs and rituals that may be repellent to the majority?" (p. A. 16) Any custom which flies in the face of The Times' feminist and human rights belief systems must not be tolerated!! Anything that precludes the notion of "progress" via relativistic critiques of non-Western cultures. In order to escape total cultural relativism there is a United Nations official who believes there is "a global moral minimum." But what the minimum is and what is its source for critique is not self-evident!
Why is intolerance and bigotry bad? It is crystal clear that The Times' meaning of the term is not the lexical-common usage meaning. The Times used the PostModern Lexicon of meaning (see Speaking PostModern). But The Times' use of bigot is employed as an epithet to describe religious groups and social movements that it disagrees with. The Times uses intolerance and bigotry to include these who exercise their rights to free expression in speaking against certain practices they see as wrong or sinful, which violates its own postmodern code. The Times tolerance turns to what The Times' theology suggests is the second required step to achieve secular salvation, the all important achievement of a proper education. This "proper education" is the multicultural ism of Outcome Based Education (proposed by the National Education Association).
For The New York Times, a proper education is the ultimate solution to practically every human problem. Over sixty-three hundred articles dealt with Education during the one-year period from August 1998 to August 1999. Most of the pieces were editorial or "op.ed" columns.
The New York Times' Benign View of Human Nature
In effect, the paper suggests that all intolerance, bigotry, narrow mindedness, discrimination, wars, and poverty could be wiped out if only all the ignorant, uninformed, or wrong-thinking people of the world could know what the executives and editors at The Times know. All evil political leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, Milosevic or Hussein would never have arisen to power if only their subjects had been well-informed and well-educated as regular Times readers.
All missteps (brain-stem research) of human nature could have been redirected if the normal humans can overcome their flaws and foibles and approach moral perfection through the education process. There is no "Sin" in The Times' scenario (cf. after Freud, Darwin, Marx, Skinner, et. al. sin is reduced to neurosis caused by socio-economic psychological factors). Therefore salvation is available only through counseling and psychiatry and the annihilation of capitalistic democracy.
If there is one fault which The Times perceives it is a failure to gain enough knowledge and information to enable an individual to operate without mistakes. Therefore, "Utopia" is a
The central message which The New York Times, the Democratic Party, and the National Association of Education is--centralize control over curriculum and financing; otherwise, local school boards or regional commissions may begin to establish their own standards about such issues as affirmative action, teaching evolution as scientifically confirmed, hiring teachers, experimenting with "Vouchers" and choosing other ways they spend their money (e.g. The Coleman Report, equality of educational opportunity). Sociologist James Coleman concluded that per-pupil spending does not have a significant impact in student achievement scores. Economist Erik Hanusher, et. al. have replaced Coleman's study. After forty years of research one thing is abundantly clear--that more money does not equal better educational outcomes.
Several school systems have introduced Olympic-sized swimming pools with underwater viewing room, television studios, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a robotic lab, field trips to Mexico and Senegal and higher teacher salaries. When the experiment ended in 1998 costs had mounted to nearly two billion dollars yet test scores did not rise and there was even less student integration than before the spending spree. In May of 2000, the Missouri Board of Education officially removed accreditation status to the Kansas City, MO school system for failing to meet even one of the eleven performance standards.
The presently available data does not support the rules and resource based approaches to education reform. Even the incentive-based approach of merit pay for teachers is one more educational reform can take, but parental choice remains its centerpiece. (William Proctor, The Gospel According to The New York Times (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Press, pp. 88-106).
When Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman first advanced the concept of full educational choice nearly a half a century ago, his strategy centered on the idea of Vouchers--direct payment from the government, in the form of checks or redeemable coupons, to enable them to purchase education on the open market. Perhaps comparing this model with another voucher program: the Food Stamps would be helpful. This program is also represented by the demised Soviet style supermarkets hand down. The same issue is expressed in the Voucher Syndrome as opposed to assigned public schools.
Perhaps an alternative proposal is "Tax Credits." If the tax -credit is adequate it would provide parents with financial relief to select alternative private schools over the public schools. But, of course, this suggestion is totally opposed by The Times, the NEA (the second most powerful lobby in Washington, D.C.), and the Democratic party-bosses. The tax credit does not represent a claim on anyone else’s wallet. A tax credit represents our “own money”. A major critique is that this suggestion drains funds from the public school system. Government control of tax base uses too much money as a social engineering tool. A tax credit designed to change behavior is just not the same as a tax credit that refunds some of what government charges you for something you don't want to use.
When a voucher plan was on the ballot in Michigan in November of 2000, yard signs popped up all over the state declaring, "No Vouchers." It had to image a similar proliferation of "No Tax Credit" signs, had that been the choice before voters. Even liberal Democrats support tax credits for preschool and for higher education. It is not surprising then, that of all the statewide ballot initiatives for educational choice, in the past 30 years, the one that holds the record for securing the greatest percentage of popular vote in the 1998 Colorado tax credit initiative (ca 41%), the "tax credit" is less complicated flat tax. Perhaps tax credits are the best mechanism we are likely to get for letting people exercise choice in the use of their education dollars while restraining government intrusion.
Perhaps the Michigan (1996) educational mandate by the Mackinac Center is being replicated in several states nationwide. Called the "Universal Tuition Tax Credit," it would allow any taxpayer, individual or corporate, parent or grandparent, neighbor or friend, to contribute to the education of any elementary or secondary school child and to qualify for a dollar for dollar credit against certain taxes owed. The maximum credit would be equal to half of what the government spends per student in the public schools, which is more than enough to cover educational expenses at 90 percent or more of private schools.
K-12 tax credit already has passed state legislation in Arizona, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. Michigan congressman, Peter Hoekstra, prepared federal legislation that would permit a universal education tax credit of up to $500.00 against federal income taxes owed. That keeps billions of dollars from ever going to Washington in the first place, which is a good thing in itself. The crushing defeat last year of two million dollars is funded by state voucher referendum in California and Michigan. (Ibid)
In The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, he points out the consequences of trying to use education to remake society. Human beings do not reform they disappear, along with their freedoms. That is what is at stake in the fight over education. "We must do all that we can to curb the power of the educational social engineers in short term. Ultimately we must overcome them and their control of culture." (Lewis, The Abolition of Man) The present policy debate is music to the ear of one of The Times' favorite organizations. The American Federation of Teachers Union, the union that battles for higher pay and better benefits for public school teachers. However, The Times is suspicious of creative private alternatives to the high priced school system.
The Times does not vouch for Vouchers--Why? There are at least two reasons; (1) Vouchers tend to promote religious schools and education (Christian, non-Christian and marginal groups now affirm religious status), a consequence that flies directly into the face of The Times' power structure which is unmodifiably opposed to "conservative religious groups, especially conservative Christian groups. (2) Vouchers cause decentralization of school control, a tendency that makes it impossible for one's philosophical worldview voice to exert significant influence over public culture. Christianity is being fragmented and privatized which precludes Christian influence in the public arena. The educational war is extended into the courts (e.g. law schools) and their post modern reinterpretation of the 1st, 4th and 14th amendments. Those who are unmindful that we are treading in postmodern minefields, where absolute truth is intolerable, will not be in any position to constructively engage the heart of the educational debate.
There is an epidemic of postmodern responses to the Voucher proposal as "violating the constitution of separation of Church and State." The reason for the blocked "Cleveland Voucher Program" was declared by a quotation from the president of the American Federation of Teachers. "The Cleveland Voucher Program was bad law, bad policy, bad education for the kids. Now we can make sure the money will be in the public schools, where there is a real school improvement effort going on."
The heart of the quotation is that the government is involved in improving our schools rather than via vouchers. This is just another reminder of our information crisis. How do we evaluate survey statistics? (e.g. George Barna's demographic analysis, The Calculus of Probability, is no source for determining the Truth of a given position--only the statistics of those who are for or against. There is no source to evaluate which group is "right" or "wrong." We color code alternative belief and behavior systems by "Voting" which merely expresses how many hold a given position. It can say nothing concerning the "reasons" for the debate.
The "Cultural Creep" is to influence public opinion and values, media moguls can't get too far ahead of the public or postmodern culture lives and dies by "The Polls." There is a constant search for an acceptable range of public opinion. We certainly want to evade either epithet of too radical or irrelevant.
The much stronger position espoused in our postmodern culture is to guide the public over time to an entirely new set of values and beliefs. That is exactly what happened with abortion, the death penalty, the gay rights agenda and the debate over public education issues like school vouchers. The New York Times is constantly seeking to resolve the "national controversy" on school vouchers by declaring that the controversy centers around the "constitutional mandate of separation of Church and State." Some of the cultural indicators of this national controversy could be summed up in three words: (1) anti-voucher, (2) pro-centralization and (3) anti-Christian (religion in general).
The message of The Times was communicated to the members of The Supreme Court. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg took her stand on the decision in her Benjamin N. Cardozo Lecture on Affirmative Action and Human Rights, published in The Record of the Association of The Bar of The City of New York (May/June, 1999). In fact, she quoted The Times several times as factual authority for her arguments. The heart of the Control Syndrome is "overkill" strategy, designed to "Control the dissemination of public information." The general public represents a far larger classroom from which The Times can enlist disciples for its worldview. Converting the "lost" has become much easier because of a recent tendency to relax reporting standards.
A powerful example is a study by the Committee of Concerned Journalists analyzed more than fifteen hundred statements and allegations reported by the news media during the week after the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal broke early in 1998 (www.journalism.org/Clinton Report.htm). Naming sources is crucial for journalism. But the recorded record reveals the radical demise of this crucial criterion of "reporting" vs. transfer of authority by quoting other journalistic reports over other media reports. If The Times is just going to copy other papers produce, why read the Times at all?
Two major steps in the West 43rd Street plan of salvation are: (1) displaying tolerance (as defined by The Times) and (2) exposing as many people as possible to a centrally controlled educational and informational environment. The third step in enhancing the nirvana of The Times is we must engage in culturally correct thinking and action. In order to enter Times’ heaven one must become acceptably tolerant and properly educated or informed, and to have postmodern contentless/Freudian/Kierkeggardian/faith! Only The New York Times conveys a gospel adequate to change both individuals and/or fragmented postmodern culture. All true believers are expected to avoid certain types of bad behavior, such as raising embarrassing questions that may call in question the integrity and veracity of The Times’ faith. Even more essential, you must not fall prey to any of The Times’ seven deadly sins or any threat that is regularly attacked in the paper. The eight Thou Shalt Nots are: (1) Thou shalt not be certain about truth of one religion; (2) Thou shalt not be a conservative; (3) Thou shalt not support Capital Punishment; (4) Thou shalt not break the public trust; (5) Thou shalt not bear arms; (6) Thou shalt not engage in censorship; (7) Thou shalt not limit abortion, and I would extend the list to at least (8)--Thou shalt not be angered by our impossible tax burden in order to carry out the liberal, left wing entitlement program of affirmative action!!
James D. Strauss, Lincoln Christian Seminary Lincoln, IL 62656