Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reza Aslan and the lack of critical media

For the past couple of years I have become fascinated how people are influenced by the media. It is such a powerful force and is so ever present in our society. It is a constant buzzing in our ears yet we seldom swat at the offensive nature of much of what it produces. I am going to relay an example that to me is very telling of the sheep like attitude the media produces in people.

In the Sept. 13 2013 issue of Entertainment Weekly in the winners and losers section we read this:
→ ZEALOT, BY REZA ASLAN When Fox News correspondent Lauren Green and scholar-writer Aslan jousted during a train wreck of an interview, Aslan clearly came out ahead. The televised scuffle pushed Zealot, a biagroaphy of Jesus Christ, to the top of the charts. Page 19
This view is how by a lot of media outlets. Just google Reza Aslan and Lauren Green. You can see the interview and see loads of liberal media sites bashing her and Fox News.

What you do see in this interview which the liberal media sites don't tell you is that Reza Aslan was lying about his credititials. He made a very big thing about his qualifications

In fact, it is Aslan who immediately turns the interview into a cage match by reacting very defensively to Green’s first question. And here is where the misrepresentations begin. For roughly the first half of the interview Aslan dominates the exchange with assertions about himself that seem intended to delay the substance of the discussion:
I am a scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament . . . I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions . . . I am a professor of religions, including the New Testament–that’s what I do for a living, actually . . . To be clear, I want to emphasize one more time, I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religions.
Later he complains that they are “debating the right of the scholar to write” the book rather than discussing the book. But the conversation took that turn thanks to Aslan, not Green! By the final minute he is saying of himself (and who really talks this way!?) that “I’m actually quite a prominent Muslim thinker in the United States.”
Aslan does have four degrees, as Joe Carter has noted: a 1995 B.A. in religion from Santa Clara University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and wrote his senior thesis on “The Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark”; a 1999 Master of Theological Studies from Harvard; a 2002 Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from the University of Iowa; and a 2009 Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

None of these degrees is in history, so Aslan’s repeated claims that he has “a Ph.D. in the history of religions” and that he is “a historian” are false.  Nor is “professor of religions” what he does “for a living.” He is an associate professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of California, Riverside, where his terminal MFA in fiction from Iowa is his relevant academic credential. It appears he has taught some courses on Islam in the past, and he may do so now, moonlighting from his creative writing duties at Riverside. Aslan has been a busy popular writer, and he is certainly a tireless self-promoter, but he is nowhere known in the academic world as a scholar of the history of religion. And a scholarly historian of early Christianity? Nope.

Any thinking media person should have become interested enough to question the Aslan's creditionals and after this interview came out and even after people like Glenn Beck (see Glenn Beck's expose here) pointed out Aslans' false creditionals you would think that that should have some relevance or at least mention...but not in the liberal has no relevance.
Aslan has a Wikipedia site as well and notice this example of how the Wikipedia can be gently nudged.

Aslan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in religions from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. Aslan also received a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology, focusing in the history of religion, from the University of California, Santa Barbara.[7][8][9] His dissertation was titled "Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework".[10]

So it looks like Under the Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology there is a focus in history of religion. However you look at the UC at Santa Barbara Sociology Graduate degree program you see that there is no such focus. What they have are:

The department offers rigorous training in theory and a variety of sociological methodologies. Additionally, sociology graduate students specialize in one of the following research areas: Conversation Analysis; Culture; Global Studies; Feminist Studies; Justice, Law and Inequality; Race, Ethnicity, and Nation; and Social Movements, Revolutions & Social Change. UCSB’s sociology graduate students have gone on to top jobs at other universities as well as into numerous research, policy, and activist professions.

They do have a Department of Religious Studies however, but it is not the Sociology Department. What it does appear is that Aslan is in fact an activist, see the Glenn Beck video for more on that.

When you actually realize just how much of a free pass is given to certain kinds of thought in the media you can begin to see how their goals and their activism are being implemented into society. If you reject their goals and their view of reality there are abundant other forms of media out there to attack and criticize and distort the facts to make their opposition out to be something horrible. Racist, sexist, homophobes, Islamophobe or the ever popular fear monger. The facts seem to take an distant second place to the goals of the activist.

How nice it would be if the journalist asked the hard questions or actually took the time to investigate the credentials of the people they talk to. Lauren Green may not have known that Aslan did not have the credentials he claimed but because she questioned him we have him on record lying about them. And that should carry some weight

Aslan's book gets to the top of the book list even though it has nothing really new As the Christian Post writes:

"Aslan has offered nothing new under the sun when it comes to offering a critique of the historical Jesus," William Lane Craig, a philosopher of religion and a Christian apologist, has said. "In fact, he is attempting to revert scholarship back to the early 1900s by echoing Albert Schweitzer's book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus. Like Schweitzer, Aslan claims that Jesus is historically unknowable and we can never get back to the real Jesus."

American Conservative writer and Baylor University professor Alan Jacobs argues that Aslan's work follows closely along the lines of Biblical scholar John Dominic Cross's 1994 title Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography.

"Aslan makes no new discoveries, and makes no arguments that haven't already been made — in some cases very long ago," writes Jacobs, suggesting that this is partly the case because "Reza Aslan is not a New Testament scholar."

It is interesting to note in regard to lying about credentials just how another member of the media was treated when it was discovered that she lied about her PhD. See the article here,

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