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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Virgin Birth And Other Holiday Fables

Hugh Hewitt has called for Vox Blogoli VI and asked the question: "What does Newsweek's story on Christmas tell us about MSM?" Jon Meacham, the author of the piece, through selective presentation of scholarly works and one-sided arguments, concludes that the Gospel accounts of the Virgin Birth and the Nativity cannot be historically factual, but instead had been fabricated by the church for any number of reasons. Not being a Biblical scholar myself, I cannot comment on the substance and scholarship of the various sources in Meacham's article. However, being in the business of critical thinking and analysis, I know an advocacy piece when I read one, even one masquerading as a "balanced" analysis. One example is Meacham's repeated elevating of the corollary to the central such as when he writes: "If the virginal conception were a historical fact, however, it is somewhat odd that there is no memory of it recorded in the Gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry or in the Acts of the Apostles or in the rest of the New Testament. It is also striking that in parts of the Gospels Mary herself appears unaware of her son's provenance and destiny. " The use of phraseology such as "somewhat odd" and "striking" reveals the perspective of the writer when there are other, perfectly sensible, explanations for his self-described oddities. For example, Mary does appear aware of her child's divine origins in other parts of the Gospels. Also, a profound lack of understanding of the religious is evident when Meacham writes: "If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the virginal conception is not a fact but an article of faith... " "Faith" can be described as the confident belief in the truth of a value, idea or thing. Thus, those of faith believe in the Virgin Birth as fact, granted but without empirical proof. They do not consider, as Meacham seems to, that articles of faith and facts are mutually exclusive. Now, what does this Newsweek story say about the MSM? Nothing that should come as a surprise to those paying attention. There is, and has been for some time, an open hostility by some to people of faith in this country, particularly Christians. Indeed, I would not expect a "debunking" of any central tenet of Islam during Ramadan by Newsweek, Time or any other main-stream news publication. This hostility has been compounded by talk leading up to President Bush's electoral victory of the red state/blue state dichotomy and the evangelical vote, and discussions of "moral values" since. What better way to show contempt for those frightening Christian conservatives than to explain to all how their beliefs sit on ephemeral foundations.

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