Nicholas Kristof must be a very smart man — but a very slow
learner. A columnist for The New York Times, Kristof is a Harvard
graduate and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. But when it
comes to something as significant as the nature of Christianity,
Kristof and his columns are dumb and dumber.
Back in March , Kristof wrote a very strange column suggesting
that his liberal media colleagues ought to give evangelical Christians
a closer look. Not that they would like what they saw, mind you, but
that the rising public influence of the evangelicals demanded media
His argument came down to this: Evangelicals are strange people with
radical religious beliefs that will do great harm to the nation, but
they mean well and so let’s be nicer in opposing them to the death.
An exaggeration? Kristof acknowledged that he tends to disagree with
evangelicals on almost everything. And he intends to oppose evangelical
influence at every turn, because, “I see no problem with aggressively
pointing out the dismal consequences of this increasing religious
On the other hand, Kristof called upon his liberal colleagues to
drop their “sneering tone about conservative Christianity itself.” If
only he had taken his own advice.
This past Friday [August 18, 2003], The New York Times ran another
Kristof piece in its editorial section, and it’s a wonder to behold:
Perhaps the worst opinion piece to run in that paper in years — and
that’s really saying something.
In his new column, Kristof points to “the most fundamental divide
between America and the rest of the industrialized world: faith.”
Unlike the rest of the industrialized world (with the exception of
South Korea), America is resolutely religious. Europe is overwhelmingly
secular, with low church attendance and very little Christian influence
in public life or politics. In America, on the other hand, more persons
attend church than public sporting events, and both major political
parties court the religious vote — just in different sectors.
This is not news, at least to anyone even moderately informed about
the national character of the United States. One would have to have
been locked in a monastery for the last thirty years to have missed the
religious dynamic of America’s culture war, and even the most casual
visitor to western or northern Europe would note its secularity. But
the divide between Europe and America is not Kristof’s real concern.
It’s the divide between “intellectual” and “religious” America.
Got that? Intellectual and religious are now opposing terms? What
Kristof really means is a divide between secularist/liberal America and
Americans who are conservative Christians. As “Exhibit A” for his case,
Kristof chose the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus.
“The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American
Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over
time,” he wrote. More mystical? Less intellectual?
According to Kristof’s reasoning, no intellectually credible person
could believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. As authorities on
this he cites the likes of Hans Kung, a German theologian barred by the
Vatican from teaching Catholic theology. Kung is a notorious liberal,
who has called the Gospel narratives a “collection of largely
uncertain, mutually contradictory, strongly legendary,” stories.
Kristof is obviously unaware of the huge body of scholarship in support
of the Virgin Birth. But, in all likelihood, he wouldn’t care anyway.
Quoting Hans Kung on the Virgin Birth is like identifying Hugh Hefner
as a spokesman for chastity.
Kristof cannot believe that so many Christians [he cites 91-percent]
take the Virgin Birth to be true, “despite the lack of scientific or
historical evidence.” Is he demanding an ultrasound?
There are several important divides in American life today, and
Kristof inadvertently pointed to one closer than he thinks: the divide
between the secular media elites and believing Christians. The media
elite is tenaciously committed to a worldview steeped in
anti-supernaturalism. Miracles are out, along with the whole idea that
modern people should be bound in any way by a 2,000-year-old book.
This is the most important American divide. One the one side are
secularists who honestly cannot believe that intelligent people can
believe Christianity to be true. One the other side are those who have
staked their lives — including their intellectual energies — on the
truthfulness and authority of the Bible.
It’s too bad Nicholas Kristof didn’t take his own advice. Instead,
he offered up a caricature so ludicrous that it’s hard to take it
seriously. Have all the editors at The New York Times gone away on
vacation? In the end, this sad column tells us all we need to know
about the real worldview of the media elite. It’s not like we didn’t
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
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