Well, I suppose one should be grateful that a mainstream-media outlet like CNN is interested in what Christians believe over and above the desire to either mock or marginalize. But this video, which was featured as part of a nicely designed CNN.com homepage, does more harm than good, I think. At the very least, it does nothing but reconfirm the media’s already daft preconceptions about Christians’ — make that conservative or orthodox and certainly evangelical Christians’ — beliefs, which is to say, that even they are too ignorant to understand what their own faith really teaches.
Yes, what poses as an attempt to explain to non-Christians the “language” of Christianity, in all its many dialects — Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Jehovah’s Witness (we’ll let that go for the moment) — turns out to be a condescending lesson for poor, benighted, and historically illiterate evangelicals (the real target of this piece) about what Christianity is truly about and how they have distorted it.
What source did CNN’s Kirby Ferguson, the writer and director of this video, employ as the basis for this instruction? Marcus Borg. Borg, by all accounts, is an affable chap, and has all his academic ducks in a row. He is also a Jesus Seminar type who denies much of what the Faith has taught as dogma for much of its history.
For example, did you know that to “believe” in a biblical context means primarily to “belove” and has little to do with embracing specific doctrines? Did you know that “salvation” is primarily, if not exclusively, about the here and now and not about eternal life with God, and that it can be worked for? Did you know that if you really understood the Bible in its original context and came to terms with the philology and lexicology of biblical language, you’d be a mainline Protestant or a unitarian (which is certainly the implication of this video homily)?
What a way to start a Sunday. Listen up CNN and ABC and NBC and MSNBC and NPR and anybody out there in the secular wilderness who may desire to learn, never mind teach, what Christianity has historically believed, yes, even in all its many dialects: Next time, would you please contact someone from the masthead of this publication? I’m sure David Bentley Hart or Timothy George or, for that matter, the editor in chief would be delighted to give you a tutorial. And I promise, after your language lesson, you’ll be able to do more than just ask, “Why did the first woman pope write the Gospel of Thomas — and does it come with fries?”