Bible Bashing 101<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
How the media controls the message
A group of humanists calling themselves the "Texas Freedom Network" (TFN) (www.tfn.org) recently released a "report" attacking the curriculum of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) (www.bibleinschools.net). TFN opposes anything remotely connected to the "religious right," including local control of schools, vouchers, and even the National Day of Prayer. It zealously supports such issues as the legalization of same-sex marriage and the teaching of evolution to the exclusion of intelligent design or anything else that would possibly raise doubts about the scientific basis for evolution. That is to say, in the words of TFN itself, it "advances a mainstream agenda." (I have always wondered why one must be left of Josef Stalin before being considered "mainstream" by groups like TFN.)
As is routine for such "mainstream" organizations, when they talk, the "mainstream" media listens. So, TFN's report bashing the Bible curriculum received international attention. The New York Times and USA Today couldn't wait to give it prominent coverage; CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and even the International Herald Tribune and a news outlet in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Istanbul, Turkey ran the story.
But when the NCBCPS issued its own press release a few days later, none of those major media outlets even bothered to call. What happened? Had the story lost all appeal? Was the public suddenly bored of the topic? Certainly the issue had not been resolved; the two organizations were as adverse as ever. But the mainstream media was no longer concerned. And when the media refuses to report it as news, well, it must not be newsworthy.
In many ways, it is the same old story: anything negative about an issue that middle America deeply cares about is trumpeted coast to coast, while positive responses are buried or ignored altogether. This is the means by which the media have shaped American culture for decades. And it is effective.
Those who claim merely to report the news in fact shape and thus make the news. And they do it within an entertainment format.
Can anyone seriously argue that we are not molded to a significant extent by what we watch and read? The legion of scientific studies aside, in the words of Hugh Hefner, today "we live in a Playboy world." As one commentator wrote, "When Fonzie brandished a library card on Happy Days library registration shot up nationwide. . . When Ally McBeal wore a certain style of pajamas, thousands of viewers asked retailers for them. It's the same thing with movies. ET and Reese's. Tom Cruise and Ray-Bans. Dirty Harry and .44 Magnums."
Television, perhaps the single most revolutionary instrument in the remaking of culture in the image of the left, has become not just a novel after-dinner diversion; it has become central to our lives. The late Neil Postman may have said it best in his classic book, Amusing Ourselves to Death:
There is no more disturbing consequence of the electronic and graphic revolution than this: that the world as given to us through television seems natural, not bizarre. For the loss of the sense of the strange is a sign of adjustment, and the extent to which we have adjusted is a measure of the extent to which we have changed. Our culture's adjustment to the epistemology of television is by now almost complete; we have so thoroughly accepted its definitions of truth, knowledge and reality that irrelevance seems to us to be filled with import, and incoherence seems eminently sane.
Postman went on to note that "television speaks in only one persistent voice - the voice of entertainment."
Our television world, driven by the need to entertain, makes a mockery of the serious side of life. News of war is delivered in fifteen second sound bites, by well-groomed anchormen and smiling women ever-eager to keep us happy. Mangled marriages are amusingly portrayed as "desperate housewives" engage in weekly adulterous escapades, all in good fun.
Even our modern textbooks have been redesigned to entertain and amuse. Hard facts are interspersed with cartoons, colorful photos, and inane asides, simply to keep the students interested. After all, the flickering images of the television screen, carefully calculated to change every few seconds in order to heighten our viewing pleasure, compete with the adrenaline high of the latest video games for the attention of our children (and many adults).
"Attention deficit disorder" is not an affliction of an isolated few; it is our cultural cancer.
In such a debased society, the Bible is hardly welcome. The media has labored to fashion an alternative reality, where amusement and indulgence reign supreme and morality, when acknowledged at all, is at best malleable. The uncompromising absolutes of the Bible shatter this make-believe world of our cultural elites. It is antithetical to everything they have worked so hard to create. It is no wonder, then, that Bible Bashing 101 is a required course for every journalism student.
The truth hurts. Illusion must eventually confront reality. And when it does, there is pain. Students in public schools are far wiser than we think. They know, deep down, that there is more to life than playing Xbox. A quality Bible curriculum that allows students to read for themselves the great stories of Scripture and make up their own minds about what is true poses a direct threat to the illusory world of the media elites.
It is time we the people recognized the detrimental influence of the media on our children, our schools, and our lives. Discernment will not come while staring blankly at a television screen. Nor will the day come during our lifetimes when the media will lead the effort to implement a Bible curriculum in the public schools. If it is going to happen, we must do it. Let's get to work. Contact the NCBCPS and ask your local schools to order their curriculum.
Mr. Crampton serves as Chief Counsel of the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (CLP), a public interest-type law firm. The CLP=s web site is www.afa.net/clp. Mr. Crampton also serves on the Board of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. Mr. Crampton=s daily radio show, AWe Hold These Truths,@ can be heard on almost 200 radio stations nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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