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Mark Noll

The Groves of Academe

What Evangelical Media?

Because Nicholas Kristof is a good reporter, he knows he has a problem. Kristof, whose byline appears regularly in The New York Times op-ed pages, contributed a column about his problem on March 4 under the heading, "God, Satan and the Media." The problem, acknowledged with welcome honesty, is that "nearly all of us in the news business are completely out of touch with a group that includes 46 percent of Americans." These 46 percent are the ones who in a December Gallup Poll described themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.

By no means does Kristof want to beat a drum for the religious beliefs or public policies advocated by self-identified born-again Christians. But in a burst of self-awareness he describes his problem with effective force. On the one hand are a slew of irrefutable realities: President Bush uses language about God and personal faith as if he really means it. The Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins has sold 50 million copies. Revivalist-healer Benny Hinn appears on television in 190 countries. Almost twice as many Americans believe in creationism as in evolution, if surveys are to be trusted. And around the world, as Philip Jenkins and others have pointed out, what Kristof calls "fundamentalist Christianity" is spreading like wildfire. On the other hand is the worldview purveyed by the élite news media in the Unites States. Its most visible representatives are "generally reflective of the educational elite, particularly in the northeast." They view crime as a result of social conditioning and not the work of Satan. They often adopt "a sneering tone about conservative Christianity itself." They "show 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's problem may simply be geographical. Were he living in Dallas, Denver, Des Moines, the Dakotas, or almost anywhere in the red (for Bush) states ...

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