Brown M&Ms and Religious Illiteracy


If I have to explain to you why the NPR correction and Chuck Todd’s tweet betray massive ignorance of very basic facts of Christianity, then shouldn’t you ask yourself why you don’t know these facts? Even if you’re not a Christian? Christianity is the religion, or at least the religious background, of the overwhelming majority of Americans. The crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ on the Cross on Good Friday is one of the basic teachings of the religion. The name — which is used in English-speaking countries — is presumably meant to observe the paradox that the day on which God was murdered turned out to be eternal victory over death. This is why it is “Good”.

Second, the teaching that Jesus arose from the dead on Easter, and ascended into heaven 40 days later, is basic Christianity. You ought to know this as a matter of elementary cultural literacy. I don’t think either Chuck Todd or Vanessa Romo, the NPR writer who initially mischaracterized Easter, meant any harm or hostility. In Romo’s case, presumably her mistake made it through at least one level of editing. It’s pretty amazing that at a national news organization with high standards, no one thought to look this up before publishing.

If we can’t count on leading journalists to understand the most basic facts about Christian practice and belief, how on earth can we trust them to report fairly and accurately about something as complicated as Christian sexual teaching? How can they trust themselves? How can they even begin to understand why we believe what we believe on all kinds of issues?