Saturday, March 2, 2013

Jonah’s 'Imaginary' Whale and Other Things That Bother Bill O’Reilly

Tomorrow the History Channel will air Part 1 of a ten-hour series called The Bible, which is a joint effort of actress Roma Downey and producer Mark Burnett, who are husband and wife.

I first learned of the series on The O’Reilly Factor, when Downey and Burnett were guests on the show.

I was initially surprised to learn that a series about the bible was going to be airing on the History Channel, although in hindsight perhaps I shouldn’t have been. It’s just that so many people dispute the events depicted in the bible as historical, and I wouldn’t expect the History Channel to disagree. But then again, Clash of the Gods is a History Channel show, too, and nobody believes that Hercules actually existed, right?

Nevertheless, my first thought was, “Well, I guess they’ll stick to those things that most scholars agree are based in fact,” and then I caught a piece of the trailer where Moses parts the Red Sea, and I said to myself “Or maybe not.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a Christian and more conservative than not. I believe that the miracles documented in the bible occurred. I was just taken aback to see that a secular television channel is on my side. (Or should I say God’s side?)

Bill O’Reilly, however, is not on my side. After Downey said that she’d been a believer her whole life, O’Reilly said, “Alright, when you say you’re a believer… do you believe in the bible literally? I mean, do you believe that Adam and Eve were out there … and uh … the snake and the apple and all of that business?”

Downey responded that she did believe in the bible literally, and O’Reilly seemed put out by that. Next, he directed a question at Burnett, “Look, a lot of the bible, Mr. Burnett, is allegorical, and we know that in creationism and things like that. So what you’re doing here, I assume, is just telling the story the way that the prophets put forth without any commentary added to it, is that correct?”

Burnett responded in the affirmative, confirming that he and Downey were portraying the bible as written, just the facts. And again, O’Reilly seemed dissatisfied with the answer. He said, “Now are you telling people that they should believe in Adam and Eve? That they should believe in Noah’s ark … Jonah and the whale… Are you telling people that this is the way to go?”

I mean, just what is this man’s problem? How many times and in how many ways do Downey and Burnett have to tell him that they believe in the literal Word of God? Plenty of Christians do. Obviously he doesn’t. Bully for him. (And by the way, I’m not making any assumptions here. The next evening he responded to a viewer criticism by saying something along the lines of “If you want to believe that Jonah was swallowed by an actual whale, that’s your prerogative.”)

Then came the piece de resistance. O’Reilly plugged his upcoming book, Killing Jesus, and he tells Downey that it’s a history book. Then he goes on to say, “But obviously the Gospels that discuss this are … were involved with that…. but there are some contradictions among Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John …” Geez. O’Reilly is stuttering all over himself, seemingly unable to believe that Downey and Burnett have fallen prey to this foolishness.

Downey and Burnett handled themselves beautifully, and I’m proud to call them my brother and sister in Christ. But O’Reilly’s position really puzzled me. I’ve watched his show for a while, and he’s always talking about being a Christian and God and morals and ethics and all that stuff, and then when two Christians tell him they believe in the miracles of the bible he gets thrown off.  I’d be the first to admit that not all Christians agree about everything written in the bible, but I’m hard pressed to understand what, as Christians, we have other than the Word on which to base our faith. So if O’Reilly doesn’t believe that Jonah was swallowed by an actual whale, what does he believe? And how does he know he can believe it? Just asking. 

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