Excommunicating Fox News
July 13, 2006
Mark D. Tooley
The head of what used to be the main voice of ecumenical Christianity in America has made Fox News the target of his latest jeremiad.
Bob Edgar, former Democratic congressman and former seminary president is now an ordained Methodist minister and general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC) -- but his religion is often politics by another means. Edgar warned a gathering of "moderate" Baptists last month against the challenges of "fear, fundamentalism, and Fox News." instead urging his faithful to "walk in the footsteps of Jesus."
Edgar cited the supposed threat posed by Fox News while speaking at the 15th anniversary luncheon of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s (CBF) General Assembly on June 23. The CBF was founded by "moderate" Southern Baptists as a counterweight to the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative leadership. About 1,800 local churches support CBF out of the 40,000+ congregations of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The CBF churches remain within the Southern Baptist Convention but channel much of their funding through CBF rather than official Southern Baptist ministries. Although professing to be "moderate," the CBF’s choice of the left-wing Edgar as a speaker confirms the suspicions of conservative Southern Baptists about the CBF. Edgar himself admitted he was an unusual choice for the "moderate Baptists."
The NCC hyped it when Fox News briefly reported Edgar’s anti-Fox remarks to the Baptists. The number one rated news network asked "Fox Fans" to e-mail their response to Edgar’s denunciation, which were forwarded to the NCC. The NCC, in turn, boasted Edgar’s comments had "hit a nerve" with Fox editors. "Predictably, many of the responses from the network's predominantly conservative fans disagreed with the NCC leader's assessment of Jesus' call to action," the NCC lamented.
However, it irrationally bragged, "a surprising number said Edgar's list of priorities might be just what the nation needed. Of the 279 emails received by NCC from 'firstname.lastname@example.org' 48 supported Edgar or were critical of Fox News," the NCC celebrated. In other words, fewer than 20 percent of the Fox e-mailers sided with Edgar.
NCC leftist-in-chief Edgar has targeted Fox News before; it was not even the first time he had used this alliterative phrase. In a Washington, D.C., speech to left-wing religious activists at "Ecumenical Advocacy Days" in March, Edgar said he expected "each of us to work ecumenically to confront fear, fundamentalism and Fox Television, with a renewed commitment to seek peace, end poverty and heal our fragile planet earth."
Edgar has solidified the NCC as a political instrument of the Religious Left since taking the helm six years ago. When founded nearly 60 years ago, the NCC was the voice of mainstream American Christianity. Now funded more by left-wing philanthropies than by actual churches, the NCC is more interested in expanding the welfare state, hyping global warming, and demonizing U.S. foreign policy than in Christian unity. Thirty five denominations representing more than 40 million American church goers belong to the NCC. But the NCC is largely inconsequential to local churches, many of whose members watch the dreaded Fox News.
He has explained to reporters that he wants to redefine "moral values" to include left-wing perspectives on poverty, the environment, and health care among "middle-church, middle-mosque, and middle-synagogue" voters. It was the usual refrain from Edgar. In his speech last month to the CBF, he described the updated Jesus. "As I study the scripture, I have found five directions to walk with Jesus in 2006: Peace, Poverty, Planet Earth, People’s Rights, and Commitment to Pluralism," he explained. In other words, following Jesus means opposing the Bush administration. "The persons who would be Jesus’ disciples will be found standing in defense of human rights, believing that such dehumanizing acts of racial or gender discrimination, torture, invasion of privacy are an affront to the will of God for his creation," he declared.
According to Edgar, America’s "founding fathers and mothers" would never have supported "prison camps at Guantanamo, torture at Abu Ghraib, genocide in Sudan, HIV-Aids in Africa and rural Asia, pollution of our water supplies, over fishing our oceans, melting of the Arctic tundra or polar ice caps, proliferation of nuclear weapons, stockpiling of landmines, or paying anyone less than a living wage."
When Edgar speaks of human rights concerns, torture and invasion and privacy, his sole target is American "empire." At his March "Ecumenical Advocacy Days" speech, Edgar laid it on thick.
God’s Kingdom [is] much more important than any man-made EMPIRE. EMPIRES see to redefine war and foster a new militarism. EMPIRES talk of pre-emptive strikes and usable nuclear weapons. EMPIRES invade other countries and markets and cultures to destroy. EMPIRES fight wars on terrorism by labeling all who are different as terrorists…EMPIRES are built on greed and arrogance.
That is one awesomely powerful and evil empire! Launching mindless wars, countenancing genocides, melting polar ice caps, torturing, polluting, impoverishing. Edgar’s speech reads very much like science fiction (with good reason).
More attuned to reality, Ronald Reagan denounced a true Evil Empire in his celebrated 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals. Unlike Edgar, Reagan was hopeful, inspiring, and targeting a wicked regime that had murdered and enslaved hundred of millions. Thanks in part to Reagan, that empire of evil soon thereafter fell.
In contrast to Reagan, Edgar speeches are little more than shrill whines about his own country, which he absurdly credits with transcendent evil. Traditional Christian clergy are dedicated to resisting the world, the flesh, and the Devil. But Edgar and his National Council of Churches prefer to target the United States of America and its appendages of "fear, fundamentalism, and Fox News."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.