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Editorial in Times draws response from Mohler
April 07, 2003
By Jeff Robinson
A recent column in The New York Times demonstrates that members of the elite news media are puzzled by what they see as the growing influence of evangelical Christians, R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in the March 22 edition of WORLD magazine.
Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, wrote a response to an article by Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof in which the longtime journalist took his colleagues in the elite media to the woodshed for being “completely out of touch” with evangelicals.
Kristof called on his fellow media to take into account the growing influence of evangelicals and stop sneering at them, though Kristof made clear his own alarm at their clout.
“I tend to disagree with evangelicals on almost everything,” Kristof wrote, “and I see no problem with aggressively pointing out the dismal consequences of this increasing religious influence.”
The columnist cited a December Gallup poll in which 46 percent of the respondents described themselves as “evangelical Christians.” He also cited the faith of President George W. Bush as evidence of an upswing in evangelical influence.
Mohler said Kristof’s “discovery” demonstrates just how far out of touch elite media members are from mainstream America.
“The elite national news corps is so far removed from ordinary Americans that evangelicals seem to have emerged from a forgotten ‘fringe’ into the national spotlight,” Mohler wrote. “The fact that something like 100 million Americans claim to be evangelicals is almost unbelievable to journalists.
“They simply don’t know any evangelicals. Who are these conservative Christians anyway? And why don’t they just go home, and leave public debate to journalists and their liberal friends?
“Every few years the secular elite rediscovers evangelicals and then treats conservative Christians like National Geographic announcing the discovery of an exotic new tribe. ‘These people are very interesting to watch,’ the secularists explain, ‘but just don’t let them get close to public policy and influence. They look dangerous.’”
Kristof took journalists to task for mocking the faith of evangelicals and accused his colleagues of “showing more intellectual curiosity about the religion of Afghanistan than that of Alabama, and more interest in reading the Upanishads than in reading the Book of Revelation.”
Kristof wrote, “I cannot think of a single evangelical working for a major news organization.”
Mohler points out that Kristof’s obvious shock that evangelicals have moved from the fringe to the mainstream winds up reinforcing the stereotypes the columnist has set out to dismiss.
“Well, elite journalists may take secularism to be normal, but that just demonstrates how distant they are from Main Street America -- the country outside the elite schools, clubs and newsrooms where reporters and editors decide what ‘normal’ is,” Mohler wrote.
“Some evangelicals see the Kristof column as a step forward. After all, his column asks fellow journalists to show conservative Christians some respect. But it’s hard to see how Kristof’s approach is anything but a well-intended failure. He ends up reinforcing all the stereotypes he sets out to dismiss.
“Nevertheless, his column is noteworthy because such an influential journalist is now on the record in The New York Times accusing his colleagues of being ‘completely out of touch’ with evangelical Christians. But when it comes to this kind of bias, America’s elite journalists and news executives are not only out of touch -- they’re also out of excuses.”