New York Times Claims ‘Romans’ Calls For ‘Execution Of Gays’

Religious illiteracy among journalists is reaching crisis levels.

“A Republican congressman read his colleagues a Bible verse from Romans that calls for the execution of gays. ‘ Come again? Wait, what? What? What in the world is he talking about? A “Bible verse” from “Romans” that calls for the “execution of gays”? Way to bury the lede there, Peters. You found something that no one else has ever found in two millenia! Though maybe you should go ahead and show your exegesis if you’re going to make such an amazing claim.

 

Journalist Terry Mattingly wrote a great column back in 2006 noting the trouble many journalists have understanding the finer details of religion news. His column, “Reporters, crow’s ears and Karma Light nuns,” begins with an anecdote about how The New York Times covered the funeral of Pope John Paul II the prior year:

“The 84-year-old John Paul was laid out in Clementine Hall, dressed in white and red vestments, his head covered with a white bishop’s miter and propped up on three dark gold pillows,” wrote Ian Fisher of the New York Times. “Tucked under his left arm was the silver staff, called the crow’s ear, that he had carried in public.”

Get the joke? You see, that ornate silver shepherd’s crook is actually called a crosier (or “crozier”), not a “crow’s ear.”

Sometimes I check in on this April 4, 2005 piece to see if the Times has gotten around to correcting it. As of today, they have not! Sometimes I hope they never will.

But crozier mistakes are understandable. Less understandable? Saying Jesus is buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, that Easter marks Jesus’ “resurrection into heaven,” that St. Patrick is known for banishing slaves from Ireland, or that William Butler Yeats is the author of the Book of Hebrews.

Then there’s what New York Times political reporter Jeremy W. Peters wrote for his piece “After Orlando, a Political Divide on Gay Rights Still Stands.” Peters is a reporter who struggles to cover issues fairly. He’s known for helping Nancy Pelosi avoid questioning on her abortion stance and other instances of being almost comically partisan in his reporting.

The article is less reportage than it is fuel for what it purports to describe:

The massacre, with stunning speed, has been transformed into a political wedge, beginning with fierce disagreements over just what the crime should be called. An attack by “radical Islamic terrorists,” as Republicans insisted? A hate crime in a place seen as a safe haven by gays, as many Democrats said?

Peters highlighted, among other things, the shameful Anderson-Cooper-avoidance theater.

And then this:

A Republican congressman read his colleagues a Bible verse from Romans that calls for the execution of gays.

Come again? Wait, what? What? What in the world is he talking about? A “Bible verse” from “Romans” that calls for the “execution of gays”? Way to bury the lede there, Peters. You found something that no one else has ever found in two millenia! Though maybe you should go ahead and show your exegesis if you’re going to make such an amazing claim.

Instead he links to a Roll Call story that makes a similar claim. That one is written by one Jennifer Shutt and claims that “House Republicans at a conference meeting heard a Bible verse that calls for death for homosexuals” before a recent vote.

Another story by Shutt says it’s a verse “calling for the death of homosexuals.” The stories say that the passage “discusses what types of penalties the Bible says should be applied to those who are not heterosexual.”

If you have even a passing knowledge of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Christianity in general, heck, the Western canon, or Western Civilization itself, you are probably confused. If you have met a Christian in your life, ditto.

Turns out … well, it turns out that reporters and editors at these two papers apparently do not have this knowledge.

The passages Rep. Rick Allen, R-GA, read were from Romans 1 and also a few verses from the Book of Revelation. It should go without saying, but sadly doesn’t in 2016 America, that neither call for the execution of gays or for their deaths.

Some Background, In Case Members of the Media Are Reading This

In Romans, Paul is defending Christianity and its mission. It has “law” themes and “gospel” themes. The “law” themes include believers’ struggles with sin, our hardened hearts, God’s wrath against sinners, death’s reign through sin, our submission to authorities, and the love we owe one another. But that’s not all! We also learn how God declares us righteous through faith in Christ, how we are made alive in baptism, how God bestows gifts such as the forgiveness of sins upon us, and how we are united in Christ. Those are the “gospel” themes.

It’s very much a 101 type book in that it’s a great introduction to Christianity, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple. It’s very challenging, for about a million different reasons. And it’s regarded as Paul’s greatest work. In any case, Romans 1 is a favorite chapter of mine because it includes the verse I was given when I was confirmed in the faith: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Yay, Romans 1:16!) It also has great prose such as, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools,” in verse 22.

Anywho, the member of Congress read the section on idolatry. It talks about how God is revealed in nature and how God reveals laws to His people. But the people’s hearts are hardened and they reject God. Paul writes candidly about how homosexual activity exchanges a natural desire for the opposite sex with a lust for one’s own. And yes, he really is talking about homosexual activity.

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