God's Christian Warriors, the Newsweek Version

Lisa Miller, Newsweek's religion reporter, doesn't agree with the politics of evangelical Christians.  No surprise, right?

In her review of God's Harvard, Hanna Rosin's study of the tiny evangelical school, Patrick Henry College, Miller admits that writing and reviewing such a book is a challenge.  Why?

She says that reporters tend “to see people of strong faith as freaks or oddities.”  This particular prejudice doesn't apply exclusively to evangelical Christians, but of course that's the group the book is about.

Miller states that Rosin, a Jewish, “educated East Coast elite” and former reporter for The Washington Post, “aces” a difficult balancing act.  On the one hand, she must avoid stereotyping the evangelicals (because they're so stereotypical?), and on the other hand, she must maintain her “skepticism, wrestling with the fact that what liberal intellectuals fear most about evangelical Christians is in this case particularly true: the students at Patrick Henry College do want to take over the world and they do think that anyone without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is going to hell.”

Miller piles on her own prejudice by highlighting other liberal stereotypes about the student body of Patrick Henry: “Its dorms are filled mostly with kids who have been home-schooled all their lives by Bible-believing Christian parents and who were taught that homosexuality is an abomination and that Adam and Eve cavorted with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.” 

Well, at least she lets us know she has her prejudices.

What Miller enjoys most about Rosin's book, however, is the featuring of “believers who genuinely struggle with faith.” Here she highlights the stories of “the cult teacher” on campus who teaches the students about Kant and Nietzsche, and a “campus beauty” who “prefers to live off campus and listen to church services on her car radio rather than join the reindeer games in the girls' dorms.”

These nonconformists give Miller hope that Patrick Henry isn't a “threat to American values of pluralism, equality and democracy.”  In fact she joyfully closes her review by observing: “As Rosin's story shows, the world is a big and messy place, and the problem with individuals – even like-minded warriors – is that they don't always do as they're told.”

One can't help but wonder if Miller would treat other religions with so much condescension.  Sure, she gets props for at least putting her own natural bias out there, but in the reporting of this story she only reinforces liberal stereotypes and further denigrates evangelicals.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.