Written by Todd Mangum
Thursday, 05 September 2013 00:00
In a recent issue of TIME, culture analyst James Poniewozik issued a blistering protest to ABC’s decision to add Jenny McCarthy as a co-host to the morning talk show, The View. Poniewozik is not bothered by McCarthy’s being a former Playboy model, nor does he disagree with the observations of many other TV critics that she is winsome, telegenic, funny, and outspoken, who will bring . . . intelligence as well as warmth and humor” to the roundtable discussions.
What bothers him is that McCarthy is all those things, but has used her photogenic charisma to campaign against childhood vaccinations, forwarding the assertion — thoroughly discredited by the medical community — that childhood vaccinations cause autism and other maladies. For this, Poniewozik says, “Putting Jenny McCarthy on The View is media malpractice” (“Bad Medicine,” TIME, July 29, 2013, p. 55).
It’s a thoughtful piece, in a stream of blogs and articles representing an outcry against this choice of co-host (see http://www.efabula.com/story.php?m=6157440). I do see the danger of lending media credibility to misinformation that could undermine public safety (though I’m not that kind of doctor, so I can’t weigh in on the vaccine debate at all authoritatively).
I am nevertheless struck by a tremendous irony in this uproar. How clearly TIME sees the danger of putting forth attractive people to promulgate viewpoints that lure people into ideas and habits that could undermine physical health. And yet, such media (not just TIME but media outlets across the board) are often the primary agents of legitimizing, popularizing, and sometimes heroizing celebrities advancing the most toxic viewpoints and lifestyles most lethal to the soul.
Supreme Court rulings early on in U.S. history recognized that toxicity is not just physical; protection of morality (of Christianity in particular) was originally thought to be a worthy and necessary defense against moral degradation; erosion of society’s moral fiber was recognized as a threat to public safety and to the health and well-being of the citizenry every bit as dangerous as smallpox or polio. My, how times have changed.
I am not pining for the days when the State enforced matters of religious conviction. I am aware of the well-documented historical lessons that warn against that. Still, I can’t help but wonder if we are now learning, and are destined to learn the hard way, the lessons of not only allowing, but fully empowering, unbridled expression of ideas, lifestyles, and viewpoints both reckless and dangerous — for this life and the next.
But our culture watchers are upset about Jenny McCarthy being on The View? How ironic. Is it just me?
Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and co-author (with Dr. Paul Pettit of the Howard Hendricks Leadership Center in Dallas, TX) of the just-released book, Blessed are the Balanced: Following Jesus into the Academy (Kregel), and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum