How accurate is Ryan Lizza’s anti-Christian rant in the New Yorker?

Richard Weikart, professor of History at California State University, Stanilaus, evaluates Ryan Lizza’s bigoted attack on Michele Bachmann’s Christian faith. (H/T Uncommon Descent)


In his recent New Yorker article and NPR interview, Ryan Lizza tries to evoke fear of Michele Bachmann by alleging that she has been heavily influenced by “dominionism.”

The two chief culprits allegedly spreading this pernicious dominionism to Bachmann and others are the prominent Christian intellectuals Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey.

Accusing Schaeffer and Pearcey of peddling dominionism – and associating Bachman with it – is a serious charge, since Lizza defines it as those who believe: “Christians, and Christians alone, are biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.” Sounds like theocracy to me.

Aside from the fact that Lizza never produces any quotations from Bachmann showing that she endorses dominionism, does his guilt-by-association argument hold any water? Were Schaeffer and Pearcey tainted by dominionism?

As an undergraduate in the late 1970s I read just about everything that Schaeffer wrote. I read Schaeffer’s “A Christian Manifesto” (1981), his most political book, as soon as it was published. Even though I do not agree with Schaeffer’s position on political activism therein, it is hard to see how he could have stated his opposition to theocracy more plainly.

He stated, “First, we must make definite that we are in no way talking about any kind of theocracy. Let me say that with great emphasis.” In the next paragraph he argued, “There is no New Testament basis for a linking of church and state until Christ, the King returns.”

He then criticized the Roman emperors Constantine and Theodosius for merging church and state, calling it a mistake causing “great confusion.” Schaeffer was a strong opponent of theocracy (and thus dominionism), Lizza’s revisionist history notwithstanding.

Casting Nancy Pearcey as an evil dominionist influence on Bachmann, as Lizza does, is even more bizarre. By way of full disclosure, I have met and corresponded with Pearcey, and she even sent me her manuscript, “Total Truth” – the one that Bachmann mentioned as important – before it was published. Though I don’t agree with all of Pearcey’s political views, nowhere have I seen even a hint that she thinks Christians should shoulder everyone else aside to take sole control of the government, economy or culture.

Indeed Pearcey believes that Christians should apply their worldview to every facet of their lives, including politics, but one of these Christian insights she insists on is that Christians should be servants to others.

Now that we know that Lizza is misrepresenting the facts about these Christian scholars, we have to find out out why he is doing it. And that’s a tall order. So let’s just see how widespread media bias is, and then try to construct a hypothesis about why it is so widespread.

Media bias: what are the facts?

Here’s a UCLA study on media bias.


Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

The most centrist outlet proved to be the “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” were a close second and third.

“Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets — Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill,” Groseclose said. “If these newscasters weren’t centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators.”

The fourth most centrist outlet was “Special Report With Brit Hume” on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “Nightly News” to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.

“If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox’s ‘Special Report’ as ABC’s ‘World News’ and NBC’s ‘Nightly News,’ then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news,” said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.”

Here’s a Harvard University study on media bias.


The programming studied on Fox News offered a somewhat more positive picture… of Republicans and more negative one of Democrats compared with other media outlets. Fox News stories about a Republican candidate were most likely to be neutral (47%), with the remainder more positive than negative (32% vs. 21% negative). The bulk of that positive coverage went to Giuliani (44% positive), while McCain still suffered from unflattering coverage (20% positive vs. 35% negative).

When it came to Democratic candidates, the picture was more negative. Again, neutral stories had a slight edge (39%), followed by 37% negative and 24% positive. And, in marked contrast from the rest of the media, coverage of Obama was twice as negative as positive: 32% negative vs. 16% positive and 52% neutral.

But any sense here that the news channel was uniformly positive about Republicans or negative about Democrats is not manifest in the data.”

From the Washington Examiner, a study of the political contributions made by the mainstream media.


Senior executives, on-air personalities, producers, reporters, editors, writers and other self-identifying employees of ABC, CBS and NBC contributed more than $1 million to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in 2008, according to an analysis by The Examiner of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic total of $1,020,816 was given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks, with an average contribution of $880.

By contrast, only 193 of the employees contributed to Republican candidates and campaign committees, for a total of $142,863. The average Republican contribution was $744.

[…]The data on contributions by broadcast network employees was compiled by CRP at the request of The Examiner and included all 2008 contributions by individuals who identified their employer as one of the three networks or subsidiaries. The data does not include contributions by employees of the three networks who did not identify their employer.

The CRP is the organization behind, the web site that for more than a decade has put campaign finance data within reach of anybody with an Internet connection.

President Obama received 710 such contributions worth a total of $461,898, for an average contribution of $651 from the network employees. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain received only 39 contributions totaling $26,926, for an average donation of $709.

And more from a study done by the radically leftist MSNBC.

Excerpt: identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

The donors include CNN’s Guy Raz, now covering the Pentagon for NPR, who gave to Kerry the same month he was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq; New Yorker war correspondent George Packer; a producer for Bill O’Reilly at Fox; MSNBC TV host Joe Scarborough; political writers at Vanity Fair; the editor of The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition; local TV anchors in Washington, Minneapolis, Memphis and Wichita; the ethics columnist at The New York Times; and even MTV’s former presidential campaign correspondent.

And here’s a bit from that same article about The New Yorker:

The last bulwark against bias’s slipping into The New Yorker is the copy department, whose chief editor, Ann Goldstein, gave $500 in October to, which campaigns for Democrats and against President Bush. “That’s just me as a private citizen,” she said. As for whether donations are allowed, Goldstein said she hadn’t considered it. “I’ve never thought of myself as working for a news organization.”

Now let’s see how this plays on in actual examples.

What are some examples of media bias?

Here are a couple of examples of how the left-wing media distorts the news.

And here’s another:

That’s how the bias that is documented in the research I cited manifests itself.

Why does the mainstream media do it?

We have seen, the journalists in the mainstream media tend to cloister together in an echo chamber, away from all dissent and diversity of opinion. This causes them to see the world in simple terms – black and white – us versus them. If the news doesn’t fit that worldview, then the news has to be massaged to fit. And many people want to believe that the world really is the way the journalists say it is – and they are willing to pay journalists to tell them so. The people who buy the New Yorker want to see the “bad people” get smeared, and to see the “good people” be heroes. That’s why secular leftist people buy it – to affirm their prejudices by absorbing agreeable distortions. They need a bogeyman, and the liberal media serves them up a bogeyman. It’s too much work to have to constantly update your worldview to reality – much better to purchase and consume comfortable self-serving propaganda. It feels good to be “better” than some other group of benighted people – and the New Yorker sells narratives that produce that feeling. They couldn’t sell real stories about Islamic terrorism – that would scare the consumers of the myths. Instead, they invent fake bogeymen to hate. Real Islamic terrorism is complicated and scary. But myths about theocrats is easy to understand and not really scary. People know that Christians aren’t like that, they just want to hate them anyway – that’s why they read the New Yorker or Dan Brown.

I am not surprised that a secular leftist propaganda outlet like the New Yorker would attack Christianity in particular. When you step inside the strongholds of secular leftist thought, you can’t expect a serious understanding of Christians or Christianity. Christianity is the other. These people don’t know any authentic Christians. They don’t have lunch with authentic Christians, they don’t have them in their homes. They talk amongst themselves behind close doors, and never hear any different opinions – and a sort of intellectual inbreeding occurs. They have never seen both sides of any debates on topics related to Christianity. They can’t imagine what the arguments are for the pro-life view, the pro-marriage view, the peace through strength view, the small government view, the free market capitalism view.

And when it comes to Christianity itself, they don’t know about how science or history is used in academic debates to support or deny Christian theism as a worldview. They prefer to instead talk about what they like and don’t like. They don’t like chastity and they don’t like Hell. They know what they don’t like. It’s easier to decide a worldview based on likes and dislikes instead of having to dig in to the cosmic microwave background radiation, redshift and light element abundances and really decide a worldview based on what’s true. It’s easier to complain about moral rules that are too “strict” than to have to assess the fine-tuning of the strong force and the multiverse theory. And that’s exactly what they do – and the education system does nothing to discourage them from doing this, because most schools don’t foster diversity of opinion or critical thinking. How could a public school tell the truth about vouchers? They can’t.

If the secular left journalists read the primary Christian sources at all, they read not to understand, but to extract scare quotes to justify their anti-Christian conspiracy theories. The proof of their bias is in their inability to even name their opponents or define their arguments without resorting to insults, distortions and conspiracies. To even call a Christian scholar to ask for clarification before publishing the lies strikes them as unnecessary – it would bring down their whole worldview. They can’t consider that the other side might have arguments and evidence, because then they might have to follow a chain of reasoning that would lead them to accept that there are rationally-justifiable moral obligations that limit their autonomy and cause feelings of guilt. And that is ruled out a priori. Their hedonism and selfishness must be absolute, and their investigations can only ever strengthen that faith-based presupposition.

The best thing to do to expose these close-minded people to some diverse opinions is to point them to academic debates. They will never agree to read something written by someone they disagree with, so a formal academic debate with fixed-length alternating speeches, and a period of question and answer, is the best option. Offering both sides of a truth claim i the same debate is less jarring than offering them only your side. The debate needs to be focused away from “do I like Christianity?” (their question) to “is it true?” (our question). If it’s true, then they would have to like it.

One thought on “How accurate is Ryan Lizza’s anti-Christian rant in the New Yorker?”

  1. My experiences with people who swallow the media’s anti-Christian tripe without question has really raised some alarm bells for me. I’ve come to use the term “Christophobe” a fair bit, and I mean that in the true sense of a phobia – an irrational, illogical and persistant fear that can severely hamper a person’s daily life. These people really fear Christians, and express those fears by talking about how these scary Christian politicians are trying to take over the government and force their theocratic notions on everyone.

    I have recently seen a surge of this type of anti-Christian paranoia. It’s really quite disturbing. They don’t quite run screaming like an arachnophobe at the sight of a spider (or something that looks like a spider), but it’s getting pretty darn close!


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