If you have been paying attention to the news lately, you may have seen the following interview, in which author and professor Reza Aslan goes through an interview that doesn’t actually talk about his book — Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth — but instead asks him to respond to some criticism from Christian reviewers, as well as bring him to task for not disclosing that he is a Muslim. Feel free to cringe through the following 10 minutes if you haven’t seen it yet:
The reason the interview has made its way around the internet is because of the interviewer’s assertion that Aslan can’t write an unbiased book on Jesus because he is Muslim, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I personally have not read the book,but as a person that has read numerous scholarly texts, I understand that books like it will be open to attacks from people with alternative viewpoints.
Abraham Lincoln has probably had more books written about him than any other person in history, and despite the millions (if not billions) of words written about him, every once in a while, a book will pop up that questions some previously held beliefs about the 16th president. An example would be more recent books questioning his sexuality or books that delve further into his depression and/or melancholy. Not all Lincoln scholars agree with the books written, but they allow room in the scholarly realm for them.
The contention that Aslan can’t write a non-biased book based on his religion is besides the point. My main problem with the interview is that it is obvious that the interviewer has not read the book, but instead relies on reviews from others to attack this premise. As he makes abundantly clear in this and other interviews, the fact that he is a Muslim is mentioned early on in the book, and hopes to move beyond that in any discussion about the book. Apparently, this is impossible if you are Fox News and you want to portray the book as attacking the Christian Jesus.
Personally, I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a person that existed in history, but I do not believe him to be the Son of God. This doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate a book about him. Again, prior to this controversy, this book wasn’t even on my radar; my non-fiction book choices tend to focus on business and finance, and I haven’t had a ton of free time to read for pleasure anyway. But based on this interview, and the extended one he did with John Oliver on The Daily Show, I might try and read the book sooner rather than later.
Until then, I’ll reserve judgement on the content of the book, and I’m sure after reading it, I still won’t be anywhere near qualified to talk about it. One thing that I do know, however, is that it is interviews like the one on Fox News that makes me feel better about receiving the majority of my “news” from the likes of The Daily Show and the internet. Using an interview to push your political agenda is not “fair and balanced” no matter how often you say it going in and out of commercial.
Until next time…