Media misunderstands evangelicals

Recently, political pundits and news anchors have spent a lot of time discussing, and in many cases, making light of, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s claims that she “talks to God.”

While Bachmann may bring much of the criticism on herself in the sometimes puzzling way that she articulates her faith, she is yet another example of the many policymakers and candidates for public office who are shamed by the media because of their evangelical beliefs.

Former President George W. Bush became fodder for late night comedians when it was revealed that he believed God had called him to seek the office of the president.

Similarly, former pastor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee came under strict scrutiny for his religious views during his run for office. For example, in a 2007 debate, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Huckabee about the creation process by saying, “Do you believe literally it was done in six days and it occurred 6,000 years ago?” It was a question that, as Huckabee noted in his response, would have been more appropriately asked of someone seeking to write the curriculum for a science textbook than someone running for president of the United States.

Most recently and most troubling is Bill Maher’s recent declaration during the opening monologue of his nightly HBO talk show that “In today’s Republican Party, there’s a term for people who hate charity and love killing – Christian.”

It all points to an out-of-touch, largely prejudicial mainstream media that consistently fails to show the same deference for those who hold Christian beliefs as they do for those of other faiths, instead needling conservative Christian politicians and opinion leaders on the intricacies of their religious ideology, hoping for an inflammatory sound bite or politically incorrect remark.

Ultimately, this practice does a disservice to voters, who are not afforded as much of an opportunity to hear candidates discuss the issues that affect their daily lives.

Though the national debt stands at upwards of $14 trillion, unemployment numbers remain high with no job growth shown in the month of August and the future of social security is uncertain, the media keeps wrenching our political dialogue back to things such as Rick Perry’s off-the-cuff remark more than a year ago that the BP oil spill may have been an “act of God” and Michelle Bachmann’s claims about being a “submissive wife.” With the stakes so high, voters deserve a better discourse than that.

Centuries ago, Martin Luther stood before the papal commission investigating his supposedly radical beliefs and exclaimed, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” I imagine that many of our conservative Christian candidates for public office would echo that sentiment.

These are their bedrock convictions. They may not always be politically expedient or fall in line with the views of the various cable news anchors and talking heads, but this is what they believe and they cannot, in good conscience, depart from that.

As both the primary election and the general election in November 2012 draw nearer, it’s time for the media to end the open season on evangelicals and engage us in a responsible discussion of the issues.