A note on Maclean’s inept hatchet job on Jesus

Vincent Torley wrote about the Canadian national mag’s effort here:

To give credit where credit is due, Professor Bart Ehrman, in his recent scholarly attack on the reliability of the New Testament, at least took the trouble to draw upon the latest scientific research relating to the fallibility of human memory, even though he overlooked equally impressive research demonstrating the reliability of memory, both within a community and within the mind of an eyewitness, over the course of time. However, Brian Bethune’s hatchet job on Jesus attempts to cast doubt on His very existence, citing the work of one historian (Richard Carrier) who is not recognized as a New Testament scholar, and whose methodology is highly dubious. I am forced to conclude that Bethune’s article is not based on sound scholarship; it bears all the hallmarks of being ideologically motivated. [Conclusion] More.

As a person who has spent a lifetime in news, my principal question would be: Why this article on Holy Saturday in the national mag anyway?

This sort of venture made more sense when Time Magazine tried it in 1966. But in those days, far more North Americans were churchgoers, and the more educated ones were often aware of theological controversies. So it was an electrifying event that attracted a vast genuine popular audience.

Canada today is mostly post-Christian, so the question becomes, who really cares?

People who aren’t Christians in any serious way and never go to church don’t care if Jesus existed or not. Why should they, if no one is blowing up airliners over it?

So… as I would ask of any article I have ever edited, I ask of this one: Who’s the readership?

In a nutshell, this article typefies the reason that media across North America are drowning in low audience stats and seas of red ink: They’re mainly writing for themselves and their smoking buddies.

The good news for them is that they are released from the obligation to grapple with serious scholarship about Jesus. The bad news is that the seas of red ink are rising, and those seas are boiling hot.

We see a similar problem afflicting popular science writing. The science writer is increasingly writing for an audience of himself and his buddies, who know that the multiverse is real, as is global warming and the space alien, and anyone who doubts has some kind of a psychological problem.

Note: I don’t think there is anything the media can do about this. The internet flattened and commodified the news landscape. It’s not about whether a medium has a big website either; it’s about the fact that they are no longer gatekeepers of news and cannot help shape what people should care about anywhere near the way they used to. That will have major political ramifications.

See also: As newspapers decline, print media will survive as period pieces and collectors’ items