Biblical Illiteracy Among Reporters

One doesn’t have to have biblical expertise in order to be a reporter, but biblical literacy is helpful when one is going to refer to the Bible while writing a news report.

Apparently, biblical literacy isn’t something possessed by New York Times reporters Jeremy W. Peters and Lizette Alvarez, as demonstrated in their New York Times story “After Orlando, a Political Divide on Gay Rights Still Stands”.

In that story, Peters and Alvarez write the following:

“In the weeks leading up to the killings, they pointed out, issues involving gays were boiling over in Congress and in Republican-controlled states around the country. More than 150 pieces of legislation were pending in state legislatures that would restrict rights or legal protections for sexual minorities. A Republican congressman read his colleagues a Bible verse from Romans that calls for the execution of gays. Congress was considering a bill that would allow individuals and businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples.”

The congressman that Peters and Alvarez refer to is Republican congressman Rick Allen. Indeed, Allen read aloud to his Republican colleagues a passage from the New Testament book of Romans, but that passage doesn’t call for the execution of gays.

Peters and Alvarez double down with their error when they write, “Representative Rick W. Allen of Georgia, the Republican who last month read the Romans verse that says of homosexuals “they which commit such things are worthy of death” as the House was about to vote on a gay rights amendment, has not apologized.”

Peters and Alvarez have cherry-picked words from the book of Romans. They cite Romans 1:32 out of context. That particular verse is a blanket condemnation of all sinners, not just those sinners who happen to be homosexuals.

In Romans 1:18 the Apostle Paul writes, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

In Romans 3:10, he writes, “As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one.”

In Romans 3:23, he writes, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In her commentary about the aforementioned misinterpretation of Paul’s writings, Mollie Hemingway explains Paul’s message to the Roman followers of Messiah Jesus.

Yes, it was wrong for Congressman Allen to cite the Bible while discussing legislation. The U.S. Constitution bars members of Congress from trying to turn the USA into a theocracy of their liking.

Still, it is equally wrong to butcher a biblical passage so as to present a falsehood about its teaching, which is what New York Times reporters Jeremy W. Peters and Lizette Alvarez have done.

Nowhere in the New Testament are believers in Messiah Jesus told to execute homosexuals or to single them out for punishment for their sexual behavior. Instead, the New Testament tells believers in Messiah Jesus that both homosexuals and heterosexuals deserve divine wrath.

Indeed, only once in his writings does the Apostle Paul explicitly say that a certain person should be reprimanded for his sexual behavior, and that person was a heterosexual. Even then, Paul was dealing with a particular case inside the universal Church. Paul makes it clear that followers of Messiah Jesus aren’t to judge those who are outside the universal Church.

biblical illiteracy among reporters

Side Note: The case can be made that Congressman Allen himself cited the book of Romans out of context.

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  • Scalia

    Yes, it was wrong for Congressman Allen to cite the Bible while discussing legislation. The U.S. Constitution bars members of Congress from trying to turn the USA into a theocracy of their liking.

    How is using one’s religion to inform one’s political beliefs the equivalent of a theocracy?

  • Retired military

    “Yes, it was wrong for Congressman Allen to cite the Bible while discussing legislation. The U.S. Constitution bars members of Congress from trying to turn the USA into a theocracy of their liking.”

    I believe that the bible has been cited literally thousands of times during congressional discussion on legislation in the past 240 or so years.
    Also at least President had publically funded bibles distributed to schools.
    I see nothing wrong with citing the bible during discussions of legislation, or the Koran, or the Yamakah (I believe that is what the Jewish book is called) or any other teachings of any other religion.

    The US Constition
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
    That is a FAR FAR cry from quoting the bible (or any other religous text) while discussing legislation.

    • You missed no political tests for office, as well as the Biblical injunction:

      Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Render unto God that which is God’s.

      • Retired military

        Define Bible injuction? Is that Caesar quote?

        Also left out the following
        The President swears into office on the Bible.
        A copy of the 10 commandments hang in the Supreme Court building

    • mikegiles

      A Yamaka is a hat. The Torah is the book.

  • jim_m

    I will join the chorus of people saying that it is not wrong to cite the Bible. You can cite it as a religious text. You can cite it as literature. You can cite it as a cultural touchstone for billions.

    Whether you regard it as the word of God, a morality tale, or fiction, it contains concepts and words that convey meaning to people regardless of their faith.

    You can be a bigot and dismiss it and any subsequent words out of hand without bothering to understand the point the speaker was trying to make (the mistake of the NYT) or you can be prejudiced and say like David does that it should never be quoted in polite discourse, but either way you would be wrong.

  • I believe it was Mark Twain who said the mark of an educated man was the ability to quote Shakespeare and the Bible, and to be able to know the difference!
    Today’s journalists quote Andy Warhol and Kim Kardashian and whatever will fit into 140 characters.

    • jim_m

      And they can’t tell the difference between Shakespeare, the Bible, Warhol, or Kardashian.

      • In the words of Shakespeare: “LOL”.

  • pennywit

    May I suggest the blockquote tag in lieu of quote marks when citing long passages from other sources?

  • Commander_Chico

    You can cite whatever you want in political debate, but if you cite the Bible, it’s advocacy for Christian “sharia law.” Bending secular law to religious law.

    • Only in an ignorant and bigoted pig’s eye.

      • Commander_Chico

        Your usual substantive and cogent reply.

    • jim_m

      Says the bigot

      • Commander_Chico


        • jim_m

          If you were criticizing David for saying that citing the Bible is advocacy for a Christian “Sharia Law” then you did so poorly as it came off that you were saying that it is such advocacy. If you are saying that it is such advocacy then you really are a bigot and a fool. A bigot for your unthinking prejudice and a fool for ignoring the comment I made yesterday.

          • Commander_Chico

            If some legislator was citing the Bible as authority against some gay rights thing, that is pimping for a sharia law.

          • jim_m

            But no legislator was doing any such thing and you are only spreading your bigotry because you have an opportunity to capitalize on ignorance.

          • Commander_Chico

            So there’s a debate about some gay rights law, and this guy Allen just quotes a passage about punishing the wicked, just because?

            It was some non-sequitur that had nothing to do with the debate?

            David leaves the truth of the matter to the end:

            Side Note: The case can be made that Congressman Allen himself cited the book of Romans out of context.

            Of course.

          • Scalia

            Biblically speaking, the ultimate effect of sin is separation from God, and that is the theological definition of death. Death came upon mankind (all mankind, not just homosexuals) because of sin, and redemption comes by the grace of God through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. Thus, “life” is man in communion with and in right standing with God. “Death” is the separation from God via sin.


            Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

            That means every one of us (because all have sinned–Romans 3:23) is “worthy of death.” We deserve separation from God because of our sins, but notice:

            1 Cor 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
            10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
            11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God

            So, rather than calling for the gallows, we are told that God grants mankind the opportunity to find life again through Jesus Christ. If we called for the death penalty for sins, nobody would be here. That’s why it is grossly inaccurate for the Times to characterize Romans as a call for the death penalty against gays. First, “worthy of death” includes us all (that’s why all of us will die). Second, “death” also carries the ultimate meaning of separation from God. That also applies to all of us if we don’t find life in Christ. Third, it is God who will judge us in the end. Nowhere are we called to kill other human beings for their standing or lack thereof with God.