Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Mike Licona explains the As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Es of New Testament reliability

Mike Licona is one of my favorite Christian apologists, and here is an excellent lecture to show you why.

In the lecture, he explains why the four biographies in the New Testament should be accepted as historically accurate: (55 minutes)

Summary:

  • What a Baltimore Ravens helmet teaches us about the importance of truth
  • What happens to Christians when they go off to university?
  • The 2007 study on attitudes of American professors to evangelical Christians
  • Authors: Who wrote the gospels?
  • Bias: Did the bias of the authors cause them to distort history?
  • Contradictions: What about the different descriptions of events in the gospels?
  • Dating: When were the gospels written?
  • Eyewitnesses: Do the gospel accounts go back to eyewitness testimony?

This is basic training for Christians. It would be nice if every Christian was equipped in church to be able to make a case like this.

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Dr. George Yancey: The Nature and Consequences of Christianophobia

Dr. George Yancey recently did a presentation at the Reasonable Faith group at UT Dallas.

Here’s the lecture: (40 minutes)

About the speaker:

Dr. George Yancey is a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas. He is the author of Christian works such as One Body, One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches (InterVarsity Press), Beyond Racial Gridlock: Embracing Mutual Responsibility (InterVarsity Press), co-author of United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation as an Answer to the Problem of Race (Oxford University Press) and co-author of Transcending Racial Barriers (Oxford University Press). He has also authored several research articles on the topics of interracial marriage and multiracial churches. Along those lines he is also the author of Multiracial Families (Routledge) which explores the current literature on different aspects of interracial families and Neither Jew Nor Gentile (Oxford University Press) which explores racial issues on Protestant college campuses.

His BS and MS are in economics. His PhD is in sociology.

Summary of the lecture:

  • Is discrimination against Christians real?
  • Which groups draw the most animosity?
  • What are the characteristics of those who most oppose conservative Christians?
  • What do cultural progressives think about conservative Christians?
  • Is the animosity against conservative Christians reasonable, or is it hatred / fear?
  • What kinds of stereotypes dominate animosity towards Christians?
  • Does animosity towards Christians affect hiring decisions in academia?
  • Why is the problem of Christianophobia not being addressed?

His latest book is So Many Christians, So Few Lions.

I was thinking about this lecture, and I was thinking, what would I do if I ran into one of these people who were really angry with me and wanted to feed me to lions, gas me, or murder me in other nasty ways. And I guess my only answer would be to speak to them and have them defend their beliefs without allowing them to pigeonhole me with a label. Maybe just focus on one particular issue like media bias or the origin of the universe, and try to focus on evidence rather than state my conclusion. Come to think of it, if you can name people on both sides and give evidence for both sides, that seems to work really well.

The more secular and left-wing the opponent, the more you have to stick with discussing ONLY evidence, and never say your view. So, you can say “how do you work this cosmic microwave background radiation in with your worldview?” but you can’t say, “I’m a conservative evangelical Christian, and you should come to church with me”. The secular progressives seem to be very concerned that Christians vote blindly for political leaders that restrict their freedoms, so again, don’t talk about policies, talk about the reasons on both sides for those policies. For example, do this “what is the morally significant difference between an unborn human and a born human that confers a right to life?” rather than “I’m pro-life and you should be pro-life too, or I’ll put you in jail”.

I have had conversations with people on the secular left who could not name a single reason for any of my beliefs. For example, gun ownership – they had no idea that people own guns for self-defense. Or capital punishment – they had no idea that there is a deterrent effect on other people contemplating violence crimes. They simply cannot express the view of their opponents or the reasons why their opponents hold those views. Maybe that’s partly their fault for being lazy and insular, but it might also be our fault, too, for not knowing the reasons. I know that when I explain the reasons to them (on both sides) and say that this is the evidence that needs to be debated, then they do often calm down. I think that their perception that we are irrational and faith-based scares them.

I think it’s a good idea to become aware of what the research says about secular progressive attitudes towards Christians so that we know how to act around them to avoid setting them off. When you are dealing with people who have this extreme hatred of you, you probably want to chip away at them rather than just be who you are right up front. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of tolerance here, which is so strange coming from the crowd that talks the most about tolerance. We are the only ones who they think it’s ok to fire, fine, imprison, etc.

Filed under: Videos, , , ,

Is Fox News biased? Two peer-reviewed studies shed light on news media bias

Let’s take a look at peer-reviewed academic studies of media bias and see whether Fox News is biased.

Here’s a UCLA study on media bias.

Excerpt:

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.

Excerpt:

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.

Excerpt:

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 OpenSecrets.org, 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:

MSNBC.com 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.

Those are the facts.

So what?

Now consider this column from Brent Bozell, which explains the difference media bias makes to political intelligence.

Excerpt:

A 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center asked media consumers three questions: which party was in control of Congress (Democrats), who was the secretary of state (Condi Rice) and who was the prime minister of Britain (Gordon Brown).

Let’s document how the viewers of “Hannity & Colmes” were better informed than Stewart’s “Daily Show”  gigglers on basic political facts. Hannity viewers beat Stewart’s on the Democratic majority (84 percent to 65 percent correct answers), Condi Rice (a dramatic 73 percent to 48 percent gap) and Gordon Brown (49 percent to 36). Overall, as a percentage getting all three questions right, Hannity won 42-30.

Just keep that in mind when you are watching the mainstream media news shows. A very good site to bookmark and read is Newsbusters, which documents mainstream media bias daily.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: Politifact fact-checker is biased against Republicans

How accurate is the fact-checking site Politifact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times newspaper?

The Weekly Standard reports on a recent study from George Mason University.

Excerpt:

The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University is out with a new study on media fact checkers, and unsurprisingly, their results suggest that PolitiFact has it out for Republicans. Dylan Byers at Politico summarized CMPA’s findings:

The fact-checking organization PolitiFact has found Republicans to be less trustworthy than Democrats, according to a new study.

Fifty-two percent of Republican claims reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times fact-checking operation were rated “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire,” versus just 24 percent of Democratic statements, according to George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs. By the same token, 54 percent of Democratic statements were rated as “mostly true” or “true,” compared to just 18 percent of Republican statements.

The CMPA looked at 100 statements — 46 by Democrats, 54 by Republicans — that were fact-checked by PolitiFact between January 20 and May 22.

[…]This is also not the first academic study that concluded PolitiFact might be putting their thumb on the scale when it comes to selecting and evaluating political statements. Last year, during the height of campaign season, the CMPA tallied up PolitiFact ratings. That study also showed PolitiFact tends to be much harder on Republicans:

The study examined 98 election-related statements by the presidential candidates, their surrogates, and campaign ads fact-checked by PolitiFact.com from June 1 to September 11. Major findings:

PolitiFact checked the assertions of Democrats slightly more often than those of Republicans (54% vs. 46% of all statements).

However, PolitiFact rated Democratic statements as “mostly true” or “entirely true” about twice as often as Republican statements — 42% true ratings for Democrats vs. 20% for Republicans.

Conversely, statements by Republicans were rated as entirely false about twice as often as Democratic statements – 29% false ratings for GOP statements vs. 15% false ratings for Democrats. (This includes categories labeled “false” and “pants on fire.”)

Further, the University of Minnesota School of Public Affairs looked at over than 500 PolitiFact stories from January 2010 through January 2011. Their conclusion:

Current and former Republican officeholders have been assigned substantially harsher grades by the news organization than their Democratic counterparts. In total, 74 of the 98 statements by political figures judged ‘false’ or ‘pants on fire’ over the last 13 months were given to Republicans, or 76 percent, compared to just 22 statements for Democrats (22 percent).

In other words, they are cherry-picking statements that are false for Republicans and true for Democrats. But maybe that’s just because Republicans lie more than Democrats right before an election? Maybe, just before an election, Republicans suddenly start to lie uncontrollably while Democrats suddenly start to tell the truth all the time?

Let’s take a look at one famous case and see.

This is from Avik Roy, health care policy expert at Forbes magazine.

2008 PolitiFact before the election: ‘We rate his statement True’

Roy writes: (links removed)

On October 9, 2008, Angie Drobnic Holan of PolitiFact published an article using the site’s “Truth-O-Meter” to evaluate this claim: “Under Barack Obama’s health care proposal, ‘if you’ve got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it.’” The article assures us in its headline that “Obama’s plan expands [the] existing system,” and continues that “Obama is accurately describing his health care plan here…It remains to be seen whether Obama’s plan will actually be able to achieve the cost savings it promises for the health care system. But people who want to keep their current insurance should be able to do that under Obama’s plan. His description of his plan is accurate, and we rate his statement True.”

The 2008 Obama plan, among other things, sought to transform the individual insurance market; it proposed to bar insurers from charging different premiums to the healthy and the sick, and to require them to offer plans to all comers, regardless of prior health status. According to PolitiFact, however, there was no need to worry that these provisions would be disruptive to existing health plans.

As per PolitiFact’s usual M.O., Holan didn’t seek out any skeptical health-policy experts to suss out the veracity of Senator Obama’s signature claim. Instead, its sources included Jonathan Cohn, a passionate Obamacare supporter at The New Republic, and various interviews and statements of Mr. Obama. Holan simply took the “keep your plan” promise at face value, dismissing as dishonest anyone who dared suggest that Obama’s claim would be impossible to keep. “His opponents have attacked his plan as ‘government-run’ health care,” she wrote, the scare-quotes around “government-run” being visible to all.

PolitiFact’s pronouncements about Obamacare were widely repeated by pro-Obama reporters and pundits, and had a meaningful impact on the outcome of the election. Indeed, in 2009, PolitiFact won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 campaign.

Here’s the screen capture from 2008:

Politifact caught with its pants on fire

Politifact caught with its pants on fire

2013 PolitiFact after the election: ‘We rate his statement Pants On Fire’

Roy writes: (links removed)

On December 12, [2013] the self-appointed guardians of truth and justice at PolitiFact named President Obama’s infamous promise—that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it”—its 2013 “Lie of the Year.”

[…]So that brings us back to the fall of 2013. As Obamacare’s battle station became operational, and tens of millions of health plans became illegal, PolitiFact was caught with its flaming pants down. Louis Jacobson rapped Valerie Jarrett for tweeting that “nothing in Obamacare forces people out of their health plans”—a claim Jacobson rated as “False,” even though PolitiFact had rated it as “True” and “Half True” before.

On November 4, Jacobson rated as “Pants on Fire” the President’s new claim that “what we said was, you can keep [your plan] if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.” Both pieces were edited by Angie Drobnic Holan, who had initially granted PolitiFact’s seal of approval to Senator Obama’s 2008 promise. Holan delivered the coup de grâce, declaring as PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” the “keep your plan” promise.

“The promise was impossible to keep,” says Holan in her December piece. Now she tells us! But none of the key facts that made that promise “impossible” in 2008 had changed by 2013. The President’s plan had always required major disruption of the health insurance market; the Obamacare bill contained the key elements of that plan; the Obamacare law did as well. The only thing that had changed was the actual first-hand accounts of millions of Americans who were losing their plans now that Obamacare was live.

And the screen capture from 2013:

Politifact says: we were just kidding! Kidding!

Politifact says: we were just kidding! Kidding!

So when Politifact rates a statement by a Democrat as true, what they really mean is that it’s pants-on-fire-false, but it’s election time so they don’t say that.

The Tampa Bay Times. Politifact. It’s a catchy name, isn’t? It’s telling us the Facts about Politics. I suppose the same people who think that Politifact is a reliable fact checker also believe that the Affordable Care Act would lower premiums by $2500, as Obama said. It actually raised them $3000 in objective reality, though. But it says Affordable Care Act in the name, so missing the target by $5500 must be “affordable”.

I think this case demonstrates how people on the political left allow their emotions to overturn objective reality. You can keep your doctor. You can keep your health plan. Benghazi was caused by a Youtube video. The e-mails and e-mail backups of all the IRS employees were lost. The Department of Justice did not target Associated Press journalists. The assault weapons were not gun-walked to Mexican drug cartels. They will believe anything that makes them feel superior and noble, even pinned down by the heavy weight of countervailing facts.

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Sociologist George Yancey examines bias against Bible-believing Christians

So Many Christians, So Few Lions by George Yancey, PhD

So Many Christians, So Few Lions

There are three posts in the series, and I think these are all worth reading.

Let’s see the introduction to the series from the first post.

Over the next three blog entries, I am going to discuss the content of my latest book –So Many Christians, So Few Lions – Christianophobia in the United States. Actually the book has not come out yet, but will officially come out later this month. Obviously the focus of the book will be the nature of anti-Christian attitudes in the United States. In this first entry, I look at the contours of a basic level of animosity towards conservative Christians in the United States. My next entry will qualitatively explore the nature of Christianophobic attitudes. In my final entry I will consider the implications of this work, as well as other research and social events, for what it means about this type of anti-religious bigotry. For the balance of these blog entries, I will define Christianophobia as unreasonable hatred or fear of Christians.

The first post is here.

Here’s a snippet that explains which segment of our society is opposed to Christians who take the Bible seriously:

In another research project that I am currently working on, we asked college teachers how they would define a fundamentalist and how they would see a fundamentalist as different from other Protestants. Beyond basic stereotypical descriptions, these individuals tended to label fundamentalists as those who believed the Bible to be the literal word of God. According to the 2012 ANES, about a third of Americans have such a belief. If the respondents in the ANES use a similar definition of fundamentalism then the animosity exhibited by them is not directed at an extreme Christian fringe but against a substantial portion of the population.

What is as important as the extent of this animosity is who tends to possess this animosity. Those who listed Christian fundamentalists a standard deviation below the mean of the other groups are 79.4 percent white, 47.6 percent with a bachelor degree, 64.5 percent make at least $50,000 a year and 29.2 percent make at least $100,000 a year. All of these numbers are significantly higher than the percentages in the population without this animosity. Thus, those with anti-Christian hostility are whiter, better educated and wealthier than others in our society. These are majority group qualities indicating that those with anti-Christian animosity have more per-capita social power than the average person.

Remember that we not only explored animosity towards conservative Christians but also animosity towards other social groups. I found that those with relative hostility towards atheists are older, non-white, undereducated, political conservatives. Those with relative hostility towards Muslims tend to be older, nonblack political conservative males. Those with relative hostility towards Mormons are younger, non-whites political progressives. This provides some complexity to this discussion of potential religious bias and bigotry. For example, there appear to be just as many people with anti-Muslim hostility as there are with hostility towards conservative Christians. However those with potential Islamophobia do not seem to have a great deal of per-capita political power, unlike those with potential Christianophobia.

The second post is here.

Here’s a snippet that discusses whether the group identified in post one dehumanize Christians:

Several researchers and social thinkers have written about dehumanization. But the best conceptualization of dehumanization comes from Nick Haslem. He identified two types of dehumanization: animalistic and mechanical. A cursory reading of the answers from the respondents indicates that animalistic dehumanization fits their responses better than mechanical dehumanization. He identified five qualities of animalistic dehumanization – lack of culture instead of civility, coarseness instead of refinement, amorality instead of moral sensibility, irrationality instead of logic and childlikeness instead of maturity.

I do not have the space to explore all five of these qualities within the answers of my respondents (I did such an exploration in the book). But I will look at the last characteristic which is the notion that Christians are childlike instead of mature. Indeed my respondents tended to paint a picture of Christians being immature individuals led by powerful, manipulative leaders.

The leaders are deceptive and power hungry individuals who invoke “God” in a political sense to rally their supporters…They play to people’s emotions, daily. (Female, aged 26-35 with Bachelor degree)

Their movement’s leaders are the worst type of manipulative authoritarian scum and their millions of followers are sad, weak people who are all too willing to give up their self-respect and liberty for a fantasy. (Male, aged 26-35 with Bachelor degree)

In this way the respondents take away the agency of Christians by suggesting that they are weak individuals unable to resist the desires of evil leaders. Rather the respondents support an image of Christians as being children misled by bad parents.

This type of stereotyping fits quite well with some of the insults that my respondents used in describing Christians. For example, some variation of the term “brainwash” came up 137 times, from 125 respondents. Almost every time the term was used, it was to note the inability of Christians to think for themselves. For example, a female, aged 56-65 with a bachelor degree wrote, “I believe that this group is in general poorly educated and often brainwashed to the point of seeing no perspective but their own. Many allow themselves to become tools of charismatic, self serving leaders because they have been deprived of the education and tools to ever think otherwise.” This respondent, like many other respondents, have a stereotype of Christians reflecting them as unthinking imbeciles. It is a dehumanizing stereotype creating an image of Christians as not having full human capacities.

Beyond the notion of brainwashing, 66 of our respondents use the terms sheep and 5 of our respondents used the term lemmings to describe Christians as well.

[…]These numbers seem low considering that I have a sample of almost three thousand respondents; however, it should be noted that these comments comparing Christians to animals are unprompted. (It is also instructive to consider which terms were not used at all. For example, ape or gorilla was not used by any of the respondents to describe conservative Christians.) Closed ended questions providing respondents with the opportunity to characterize conservative Christians in animalistic terms would likely garner a nontrivial level of support. The comments about Christians as passive animals, combined with the relative willingness of the respondents to use the term brainwashed, occur often enough to provide some confidence that characterizations of Christians as unthinking passive followers are accepted within subcultures with high levels of Christianophobic animosity. If there is any doubt that there is an animalistic element to the type of dehumanizing occurring among my respondents, the use of these animals clearly indicates that Christians are not always seen as human.

The third post is here.

Here’s a snippet showing how this bias against Christians manifests itself:

It is well established that academics tend to be more politically progressive and secular than the general population. It is obvious that they are highly educated. So academia theoretically should be a place where we would find a higher than normal level of Christianophobia. This Christianophobia may manifest in discrimination against conservative Christians. A few years ago I conducted research suggesting that this is the case. I found that academics were willing to discriminate against a prospective candidate for an academic position if they found out that the candidate is a conservative Protestant. In fact, they were more willing to discriminate against conservative Protestants than against any other social group included in my survey. Their willingness to discriminate against those Protestants was even more powerful than their willingness to discriminate against political conservatives. Religious intolerance trumps potential political intolerance among academics.

Of course simply because academics state that they are open to discriminating against conservative Protestants does not mean that they actually engage in such discrimination. A survey is not sufficient evidence. However, Rothman and Lichter conducted research documenting that academics with socially conservative beliefs tend to be located in lower status occupational positions even after controlling for demographic variables and their level of productivity. If conservative Protestants are more likely to have socially conservative beliefs than other academics, a reasonable belief, then this research suggests systematic evidence that there are occupational disadvantages in academia to having conservative Christian beliefs. Since academics have a willingness to discriminate against those Christians, this disadvantage cannot merely be due to their inability to do science, as the common stereotype of Christians seems to imply, but discrimination from academics who may be motivated by Christianophobia is likely an important factor.

Buy the book if you find this a useful tool for your own discussions.

You may also like to watch this lecture featuring Dr. Yancey.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , ,

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