Action Alert!

The religious illiteracy of secular reporting

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 13, 2011

 Just when you think that reporters in the mainstream media couldn't possibly show any more ignorance about religion, along comes a story to prove you wrong. This time it is the oh-so-respectable BBC. In an otherwise unenlightening commentary on Sarah Palin's use of the term "blood libel," the BBC solemnly informs us: 

Blood libel myths run counter to Jewish theology which prohibits murder.

Yes, it's true-- and not exactly surprising-- that the Jewish faith condemns murder. But somehow the BBC report conveys the impression that the Jewish condemnation of murder arises from some arcane theological point, which we readers cannot be expected to be aware of, much less to understand. 

In fact, anyone who knows anything about Judaism knows why the faith condemns murder. The phrase "Thou shalt not kill" rings a bell, doesn't it? Yet the story suggests that the BBC reporter doesn't expect his readers to be familiar with the Decalogue-- perhaps because he isn't familiar with it himself.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 14, 2011 11:10 AM ET USA

    I have also seen it referred to as "the body of theological opinion" - to make it even more remote from "morality". The author could have done a service for its readers to point out that the largest media and the official government media of the Islamic world today continue to circulate past versions and even new tales repeating the blood libel against Jews.

  • Posted by: Hal - Jan. 14, 2011 9:50 AM ET USA

    Geeez, Phil, "The Beeb" is so reliably anti-Catholic and theologically dim on all topics on a regular basis, that's kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, eh? ;>))

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Jan. 13, 2011 11:13 PM ET USA

    Not sure if this is funny or sad.