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August 20, 2017 1:48 pm

Is The New York Times Biased Against All Religions or Just Traditional Judaism?

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Is the New York Times biased against all religions or just against traditional Judaism?

What’s long been an open question in my mind has been clarified recently by the publication of two Times articles that take a blatantly Christian perspective.

One article, by an Episcopal priest, Steven Paulikas, appears under the headline “Christianity Does Not Justify Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury.’” It contends, “there is no conceivable argument to be found in Christian scripture for threatening death and suffering on a huge scale.”

Times readers such as myself, who don’t accept “Christian scripture” as their moral authority, are left wondering why it ought to guide foreign policy in a country where, according to the First Amendment, there is no established religion. The Times does not appear to have solicited or published a similar piece from a rabbi on the question of what the Hebrew Bible or Judaism say about President Trump’s foreign policy toward North Korea, even though such a piece, or analysis, might well reach a different conclusion from the Episcopal priest’s.

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That Times article also goes out of its way to criticize George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” phrase, which has been widely attributed to a presidential speechwriter, David Frum, who is Jewish.

Another article, in the Times Sunday magazine, is by Jane Coaston, a writer who attended Catholic grade school and high school. She writes:

We have long been warned about the dangers of flaunting our own moral superiority this way: In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus instructs his followers not to be like the ‘‘hypocrites’’ who ‘‘love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners that they may be seen by men.’’

Coaston’s “we” doesn’t include me — I’m not a follower of Jesus, and this passage from Matthew strikes me as vaguely anti-Jewish. If the Times magazine wanted to select an example of a warning against religious hypocrisy, it could have chosen any number of examples from the prophets in the Hebrew Bible — say, Jeremiah 7, or Isaiah 58. But instead Coaston’s first example of religious hypocrisy is Jesus’ criticism of Jews praying in synagogues, an example that may strike those of us who still pray in synagogues as jarringly off-key.

On the evidence of these two pieces, at least, it’s not all religions that the Times has a problem with, just traditional Judaism.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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