In this interview from Fox News’s “Spirited Debate,” anchor Lauren Green appears incredulous that Reza Aslan, a widely-respected religious scholar and writer who happens to be a Muslim, could possibly write a book about Jesus. In addition to reading inflammatory comments from Twitter and viewer emails, Green badgers Aslan throughout the entire interview, repeating the same questions and cutting him off at times while refusing to listen to his answers.
Aslan’s book, entitled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, traces the life of Jesus as a historical figure rather than from a theological standpoint. But, because Aslan is a Muslim, he has absolutely no right to do so, at least according to Green and her leagues of Fox News viewers. Apparently, his being a Muslim must mean he is attempting to destroy the Christian religion at its base. Never mind that Aslan has spent several years reading and writing on the subject. Never mind that he holds several degrees in religious studies from well-respected universities. Never mind that he quietly, calmly deflects the misleading responses Green reads off multiple times and explains how he has included source materials for readers interested in the debate he is entering so they can decide for themselves if he is right.
No. Instead, Fox News, in allowing this interview to air, has displayed for the umpteen-thousandth-time its blatant disregard for journalistic ethics and professionalism. It also reflects what I think is a broader problem in mainstream media with a lack of comprehension regarding what scholars and academics really do. Does Lauren Green even know what a Ph.D. is or how much effort it takes to get one? If she or her viewers did, this would have been a completely different interview. I also wonder how she would have acted towards a Christian scholar writing about Islam. I tried to find some such interviews, but I could barely get past the flood of posts regarding this particular interview.
This video has already made the rounds, so I will just give a run-down of some of my favorite comments: Buzzfeed asks, “Is this the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done?” Uproxx.com says it is a “new low” for Fox News. Josh Vorhees of slate.com says the interview is “cringe-worthy,” and believe me, he isn’t the only one. And, my personal favorite, from redditor /u/Goldtoes2, “It would be like considering yourself a journalist even though you work for [F]ox [N]ews.”
At any rate, the book appears to be an interesting take on Jesus as a historical figure, perhaps something similar to what Bart Ehrman (for scholars in the know) might write. I will thus conclude by linking to a couple of interviews that actually take Aslan seriously, just in case anyone is interested.
Here’s one from NPR’s “Fresh Air”: http://www.npr.org/2013/07/15/198040928/christ-in-context-zealot-explores-the-life-of-jesus
And one from _The Daily Show_: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-july-17-2013/exclusive—reza-aslan-extended-interview-pt–1