CJR May/June 2005: Stations of the Cross
Evangelical news looks and sounds much like its secular counterpart, but it homes in on issues of concern to believers and filters events through a conservative lens. In some cases this simply means giving greater weight to the conservative side of the ledger than most media do. In other instances, it amounts to disguising a partisan agenda as news. Likewise, most guests on Christian political talk shows are drawn from a fixed pool of culture warriors and Republican politicians. Even those shows that focus on non-political topics �€” such as finance, health, or family issues �€” often weave in political messages. Many evangelical programs and networks are, in fact, linked to conservative Christian political or legal organizations, which use broadcasts to help generate funding and mobilize their base supporters, who are tuning in en masse. Ninety-six percent of evangelicals consume some form of Christian media each month, according to the Barna Research Group.
Given their content and their reach, it�€™s likely that Christian broadcasters have helped drive phenomena that have recently confounded much of the public and the mainstream media �€” including the surge in �€œvalue voters�€� and the drive to sustain Terri Schiavo�€™s life, a story that was incubated in evangelical media three years before it hit the mainstream. Nor has evangelical media�€™s influence escaped the notice of those who stroll the halls of power. They�€™ve been courted by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Mel Gibson, and George W. Bush. All the while, they�€™ve remained hidden in plain sight �€” a powerful but largely unnoticed force shaping American politics and culture.