BuzzFeed’s new video “A Priest, Rabbi, And Imam Discuss Gay Rights & More” tells us that its featured players “walk into a bar” to “discuss tough issues we have a hard time talking about with each other.”
This is not a bad premise. Jews, Christians and Muslims don’t just have views that are distinct from one another, but they have views that are very distinct from the editorial line of BuzzFeed. Presenting viewers and readers with challenging viewpoints is good. Let’s see how it goes:
Wait, what? What fresh hell was that?
I mean, seriously, what was that?
First off, let’s deal with the priest. Despite the misleading tagging of the video as “Catholic,” he is not a Roman Catholic priest. Perhaps the embrace of abortion gave you a clue. Rev. Francisco Garcia is a labor activist and priest in the Episcopal Church. Rev. Garcia is an excellent representative of the Episcopal Church, not just because of his support for abortion of unborn children but also because of his full-throated support of sex outside of the marriage of one man and one woman. If this is the best BuzzFeed can do for challenging interfaith dialogue, it’s a shame. The Anglican Communion just suspended the Episcopal Church from full participation on account of its doctrinal views! Believe it or not, the Episcopal Church used to be described as “the Republican Party at prayer.” That must have been about 100 years ago. Now it would better be described as “the mainstream media at prayer.” Reaffirming the values and devout doctrines of the BuzzFeed editorial offices, no matter how contrary they are to the vast majority of global Christianity isn’t particularly noteworthy.
Wouldn’t it be great if media outlets could actually engage views they don’t share? Let’s bust open the media narrative from the last 50 years and get oh-so-adventurous by truly engaging — not mocking — what non-Episcopalians say about abortion and homosexuality. Imagine this video if it featured three people who didn’t more or less share the same political views. For what it’s worth, BuzzFeed may actually have an editorial position against covering truly different religious views, as we discussed in “BuzzFeed’s Journalistic Struggles On Same-Sex Marriage, In GIFs” and “5 Most Cringeworthy Problems With BuzzFeed’s Viral ‘I’m Christian, But I’m Not’ Video.”
Rabbi Susan Goldberg, known for her role as an advisor on the transgender show “Transparent,” reaffirms BuzzFeed’s doctrines on homosexuality and women’s rights. Which, you know, good for her. She is fascinating to watch in this video, which I’m sure has been edited to make her seem more contradictory than she actually was. She talks about how we lack an ability to listen to one another but then gives a false description of opposition to marriage redefinition. She says people who define marriage as the union of one man and one woman believe that gay marriages make their marriages “not whole.” Then she says this view is “quite stunning.”
Sounds like Rabbi Goldberg might lack the ability to listen to those arguments with which she disagrees! Or she’s very bad at characterizing them. Some of us would be curious to find out what her reaction would be to actual arguments against redefining marriage! Either way, imagine if BuzzFeed actually had a panel that included a real discussion about points of disagreement.
Imam Jihad Turk says that for the sake of transparency, he should note that Islam “suggests” sex is for men and women in marriage, but hastens to add that Islam condemns homophobia. Now here’s where we could get a good discussion going about how various religions coexist with those that don’t uphold their doctrinal views. But if it happened, it was left on the cutting room floor. Imam Turk’s celebrated interfaith work has also faced criticism that it is unduly positive and out of step with major streams of Muslim thought. He says that Islam is very feminist but that the patriarchal cultures of some of its followers overpower the teachings of the religion.
The ‘Coexist’ Bumper Sticker Mentality
The trio are asked if their religion is the “only way.” The implication of the question is unclear. The “only way” to … what? In any case, the priest says that there are many paths to the divine, many revelations of God in the world, and that he follows Christ but is opposed to making people believe. Thank you for your bold stance against forced conversion, sir! Imam Turk says the Koran says that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all saved.
And Rabbi Goldberg says that people who believe their way is the only way “in this terrible blasphemous jump of arrogance make themselves God, and out of that, they kill other people.” She adds that Christians, Jews and, Muslims all have a serious problem with terrorists killing others over religious differences. In unrelated news not mentioned in the BuzzFeed video but covered on CNN yesterday, “Last year was the most violent for Christians in modern history, rising to ‘a level akin to ethnic cleansing,’ according to a new report.”
The question about ways and only ways is unclear, but Jesus talked about being “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And not only did he not kill anybody, but he also sparked a revolution of concern for the poor and marginalized. In the words of Jesus’ mother, Christians praise God for “he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” Certainly some people who believe they are right and all others are wrong kill other people. But at least for Christianity, the whole point is that we are not to do that, no matter how inane someone else is being.
Rabbi Goldberg’s last answer is to the question of whether religions can coexist. She says, “Take a risk and find someone of a different tradition and ask about it. Ask with curiosity and openness. Be moved with empathy toward their experience.”
This is excellent advice! It works even beyond liberal Christian, liberal Jew, liberal Muslim discussions, too! BuzzFeed should take a risk and find someone of a truly different tradition and ask them about it with curiosity and openness.
Many years ago, the Washington Post described Christian conservatives as “poor, uneducated, and easy to command.” One would be forgiven for thinking that this video suggests BuzzFeed viewers and readers are willing to believe whatever is told to them. Actual interfaith work should not just have three clergy of similar political persuasions but different religions reaffirming everything an audience already believes. The tepid conversation featured here is an insult to the intelligence of BuzzFeed’s readers and viewers.
Garcia, Goldberg, and Turk are excellent representatives of their fairly unique (globally speaking) religious views. Now it’s time for BuzzFeed to spread its wings and meet some religious adherents more representative of the country and world they cover.