People who follow such things know how often the mainstream media misstates basic facts about Christianity and Christian history. At the First Things site today, I recount a recent example from the New York Times, a review of a museum exhibition on Jerusalem by Pulitzer Prize winning art critic Holland Cotter.
Not only does Cotter appear ignorant of the fact that Christians revere Jerusalem because they believe the Resurrection occurred there, he also distorts Christians’ history in the city, including the Crusades. This ignorance of Christianity should alarm not only Christians, but anyone who relies on the Times, and the media more broadly, to help understand our world:
As I say, poking fun at the Times’s lack of knowledge is amusing. But there’s a serious point as well. Notwithstanding the fragmentation of the media, the Times is still the most important newspaper in America, perhaps the world. More than any other journal, it has the power to set our country’s political agenda. That’s why omissions like Cotter’s are worth noting. They reflect a basic ignorance of Christianity—of its teachings and its history—that one has to assume affects other sections of the paper as well. That the Times presents a distorted picture of Christianity shouldn’t bother only Christians. It should unsettle anyone who looks to the paper for an informed and objective account of the role of religion in the world today.
You can read the whole thing here.
In September, Four Courts Press released “Religion and Politics in Urban Ireland, c. 1500-c.1750,” edited by Salvator Ryan (Patrick’s College, Maynooth) and Cladagh Tait (University of Limerick). The publisher’s description follows:
This collection celebrates the career of Colm Lennon, one of Ireland’s most respected early modern historians. It examines the interplay between politics and religion in early modern Ireland, with a particular focus on its urban communities. Topics include the Reformation in sixteenth-century Cork; the often turbulent lives of nuns in early modern Galway; relations between various Protestant groupings in early modern Belfast; the career of an Old English Catholic physician in seventeenth-century Dublin and Limerick; the tale of how migrant Dublin textile workers found themselves before the Spanish Inquisition; and the hagiography of an eighteenth-century Dublin priest. It also features an edition of a dispute in 1600 between Henry Fitzsimon and James Ussher on whether the pope should be considered the antichrist.
In September, Cambridge University Press released “Salafism in Nigeria: Islam, Preaching, and Politics,” by Alexander Thurston (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows:
The spectre of Boko Haram and its activities in Nigeria dominates both media and academic analysis of Islam in the region. But, as Alexander Thurston argues here, beyond the sensational headlines this group generates, the dynamics of Muslim life in northern Nigeria remain poorly understood. Drawing on interviews with leading Salafis in Nigeria as well as on a rereading of the history of the global Salafi movement, this volume explores how a canon of classical and contemporary texts defines Salafism. Examining how these texts are interpreted and – crucially – who it is that has the authority to do so, Thurston offers a systematic analysis of curricula taught in Saudi Arabia and how they shape religious scholars’ approach to religion and education once they return to Africa. Essential for scholars of religion and politics, this unique text explores how the canon of Salafism has been used and refined, from Nigeria’s return to democracy to the jihadist movement Boko Haram.