Several years ago, the National Catholic Reporter carried a story warning readers about the popular Left Behind series of Christian apocalyptic novels. Writers in The Living Light, a quarterly publication of the United States bishops’ Department of Education, point out to their readers that the series denies a number of Catholic teachings and is both subtly and overtly anti-Catholic.1 While the staff of the Catholic bishops’ Department of Education probably wanted to prepare teachers for questions from their students who read the Left Behind series, the charge of anti-Catholicism in evangelical discourse was not new.
At the same time, evangelicals and Catholics have found common cause in the United States, working together to defend life at all its stages, to support marriage and family life, and to imbue the culture with religious values. Why, then, the mutual suspicion? What role, if any, do older and newer media play in stereotypes or misunderstandings?
The Catholic and the evangelical traditions of Christianity share wide areas of agreement: not only the values noted above but also the acceptance of the centrality of Christ, a devotion to the Word of God revealed in the Bible, and, less centrally but more relevant to the question, a movement from the margins of U.S. society toward the center. For Catholics, this occurred slowly over the last hundred years, with a defining moment usually credited to the election of John F. Kennedy in 1961 as the first Catholic U.S. president. Catholics today appear in all areas of society. For evangelicals, this movement toward the mainstream is still taking place with ongoing public misunderstanding and criticism not unlike that which Catholics faced a century earlier.
Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication
Robert H. Woods, Jr.
Soukup, Paul A. (2008). Considering a Catholic View of Evangelical Media. In Quentin J. Schultze & Robert H. Woods, Jr., (eds.), Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication (pp. 263-273). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.