Jon Meacham’s Profound Cowardice and Jackassery


I should leave the Newsweek hit job as I left it, but I think more needs to be said about Jon Meacham’s column. Meacham is the Editor of Newsweek and his column shows a profound disrespect for people of faith and a great amount of cowardice.

Let’s deal with it.

Meacham writes

No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

To parse this:

No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism.

Note his premise: he seeks to take of the table the argument for legitimacy of scripture. Immediately, he disqualifies, in the best case scenario for Meacham, 40% of the nation that believes in the literal Bible. So, 40% of the nation at a minimum is excluded from the debate because their view is “the worst kind of fundamentalism.”

Why exactly?

Meacham does not really say other than

This argument from Scripture is difficult to take seriously—though many, many people do—since the passages in question are part and parcel of texts that, with equal ferocity, forbid particular haircuts.

This, of course, is disingenuous. Pay careful attention to that. Meacham is picking one particular passage of the Bible, choosing to exclude others.

Take, just as an example, 1 Cor. 6:9-10:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

There’s nothing about haircuts there. It is, in fact, a general condemnation of a variety of sins. And pay attention — it is not a condemnation of a gay man per se any more than it is a condemnation of an alcoholic. It is a condemnation of the act — of the sin. Should we now embrace drunkenness and slander and swindlers too? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. No, that is the key to Meacham’s argument: he wants to embrace one particular sin as legimate. He’s perfectly willing to let the Bible speak with authority on the others — just not his preferred sin.

Let’s continue. Meacham goes on to write

Given the history of the making of the Scriptures

He again starts from the premise that you cannot believe the Bible. Likewise, he is showing his preference to a set of scholars intent on undermining the Bible, while ignoring scholars whose research shows both the integrity involved in drafting the Scripture and the fundamental consistency in Scripture despite the hundreds of years that went into compiling the entire tome.

Given the … attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament

This is important. If you read Lisa Miller’s article, you will find that the scholars to whom they give credibility are the scholars who intend to view the Bible inconsistently — who start from the premise that the Bible is not the Word of God and go on to discredit it. Newsweek totally ignores scholars who treat the Bible legitimately.

to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

There are three things here in Meacham’s summation that reliance on the Bible is “intellectually bankrupt”

1. Meacham intentionally ignores Christian apologetics that go beyond the Bible — showing application of Scripture and disregard for Scripture as it plays out in the real world. I know few people who say “the Bible condemns it period” without going on to discuss the why. Meacham must avoid the “why” for his argument to have even a shadow of merit.

2. Saying it is unserious is Meacham’s way of dismissing the Christian faith altogether. The faith relies on the tenets of the faith, which are found in the Bible. In other words, serious people do not believe the Bible, damn the serious consequences for not believing.

3. Meacham says believing the Bible is “unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.” I guess we have different definitions of the “Judeo-Christian tradition.” Meacham’s definition is wrong and premised wrong. He conflates Judeo-Christian to mean “liberal,” when it most definitely does not. The real Judeo-Christian tradition premises itself on a set of moral codes found in the Bible — rejection of slanderers, swindlers, etc.

Newsweek does this routinely. When it cannot win the argument of the day through debate, it removes those who disagree from the debate. For all the talk about Rush Limbaugh or me or anyone else ignoring the other side, that is precisely what Newsweek has chosen to do. Why?

In this case, again using data most favorable to Meacham, 40% of the nation believes the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. But, in reality, a large majority in excess of 60% believes in the Bible — maybe not as the literal word of God, but a large majority of the country will take clear wording in the Bible as clearly understood and meaningful.

Unfortunately for Meacham, the Bible is very clear on the homosexual lifestyle. It is, in fact, even clearer on marriage. And that is Meacham’s disingenuous bait and switch. Let’s say the Bible is unclear on homosexuality. For the sake of argument, let’s say it is. What we cannot then say is that the Bible is unclear on marriage.

Every marriage God himself arranges in the Bible is between one man and one woman. In Timothy, Church officers must be “the husband of one wife.” In fact, and this is critical to the intellectual dishonesty Meacham shows: there is not one instance in the Bible of a homosexual marriage. Moreover, the Judeo-Christian tradition Meacham claims to be so fond of has continued to view marriage as monogamously between one man and one woman. Why doesn’t Meacham label those who buy into the Judeo-Christian tradition intellectually bankrupt? Because it is in that tradition, not just the Bible, that gay marriage is not tolerated. Again, Meacham doesn’t do that because he is happy to equate liberalism with the Judeo-Christian tradition.

If we are to take Meacham’s argument seriously, we must throw out his premise — that the Bible condones gay marriage and substitute condoning polygamy. Because while the Bible does make clear that marriage should be between one man and one woman, there are instances of polygamy in the Bible (all of which end badly), but no instances of gay marriage.

To get to that critical step — that gay marriage is fine — Meacham must flat out throw out the Bible. But he cannot do that. The Bible is a historic text that is the cornerstone of the Judeo-Christian tradition he is so concerned about. Instead, he must claim to embrace the Bible while totally ignoring it. And that is not the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is the tradition of the godless who seek to justify existence by bastardizing God’s word.

What Meacham is playing at is precisely documented in Luke 4. Satan, tempting Jesus, selectively quotes scripture. He ignores both the total passage quoted and its context while subverting the meaning of what he does quote. There really is no difference between what Satan does in Luke 4 and what Meacham and Lisa Miller are doing in Newsweek.

Besides making Meacham a jackass, his column makes him out to be a profound coward.

Again, he is not bold enough to dismiss the Bible. He does do that, but he is not bold enough to out and out say that is what he is doing. Instead, he and Lisa Miller try their level best to co-opt the Bible for their own purposes. He cannot and does not flat out say that people who believe the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality should be shut out of the debate because their faith is nonsense, but he does make that case.

Meacham should just come out and say what he believes — people who believe the Bible have no place in progressive society. But he does not because he is a coward.

His cowardice is compounded by his fixation on the Bible. Then there is this: does anyone reading this really think Meacham would be as condescending and dismissive of the Koran?

Would Jon Meacham ever seriously write anything like that about the Koran? Of course not. He would not because of two reasons. Islam is not the dominant religion in the country and the relgion he must dismiss to have his way. But more importantly, Islam and most other major religions share the same view on the subject as Christianity, but the Christians Meacham is so willing to write off will not kill him.

He’s lucky Christians actually believe their Scripture and its story of forgiveness and redemption.

About the author

Erick Erickson


  • Good. I was seriously worried you were devolving into a wholly unreasonable person. It would be interesting one day to have a real conversation instead of our hacking away at each other on our websites.

    Congratulations to you and Christy on the new addition to the family.

  • So your not a YEC? Good I was afraid out relationship was degenerating to the point of no longer being able to have a conversation. That would have been the final blow.

    I guess there’s still hope.

  • Well, I think if you read Genesis 1, God made day and night on the first day. So the day existed before night time and day time existed. So who knows how long the day lasted. The actual word can just as easily be used as phase, which I think is more accurate. In fact, before the King James Version it was more commonly understood as such.

  • Most precisely: I’m an inerrant word guy. There are parts that are poetic. There are parts that are parable, but there are also parts with clear teaching.

By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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