Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks often of his religion—but he tailors it to fit his politics, and it focuses on works over faith
“Thanks very much,” said the impassioned radio announcer as I tuned in right at the end of her plea, “for your calls, for your concern, and for your prayers.”
For your prayers?
That was a little much—and even though all this happened some 25 years ago, I well remember checking my radio dial to see what might be out of adjustment. For this was no radio evangelist, or even a religious relief agent, I was listening to. This was the local outlet for National Public Radio, thanking me for my prayers. If I’d had an instant replay back then, I would have backed up just to be sure.
As a matter of fact, I hadn’t prayed anytime that morning for NPR—or any morning before. Nor do I have any intention of adding NPR to my prayer list in the future—if by that I’d be asking God to prosper NPR’s welfare. Do I say that with a tad of embarrassment? Perhaps.
If there is one thing government should not be doing with the money of its citizens, it is trying to influence how those citizens think.
Let’s give them their due. In some ways, NPR is radio broadcasting at its best. The NPR folks know how to tell a compelling story. They know how to use audio and sound, even in the age of TV and visual images. Here at WORLD, we’ve been frank imitators of NPR’s professional and technical skills as we’ve developed our own The World and Everything in It—and we’ve gotten all kinds of kudos from our listeners for doing just that.
But there are two big reasons I don’t want NPR to prosper.
The first is that it’s simply not an appropriate role for an arm of government to be a major news reporter. NPR argues, of course, that it is independent of government, getting less than 1 percent of its funding from federal grants. But NPR’s member stations across the country get about 12 percent of their operating funds from federal and local government subsidies, amounting to millions of dollars. Nobody—especially professional newscasters—can argue that such funding has no effect on the shaping of the news reported by that agency.
But it’s not really a matter of how much money the government spends on such an endeavor. The big issue is whether any money at all is spent. For if there is one thing government should not be doing with the money of its citizens, it is trying to influence how those citizens think.
On dozens of other issues, there may be room to disagree. Should the government run the postal service? If so, why not the phone company? Should it build roads? Then why not the railroads? Health coverage and health insurance? Why not life insurance?
But it wouldn’t be hard to concede most of those issues if we could just get straight the absolute wrongness of letting our government indoctrinate us with its own value systems. My father used to say he’d far rather have the government feed, clothe, and house his children than to have that same government shape their minds. I used to think that was a radical viewpoint. Now NPR reminds me, every time I listen, that Dad was right on target.
But I said there are two reasons I don’t want NPR to prosper. The other reason is that the values NPR regularly promotes are—overall—tilted heavily against the value system of the Bible. In its long-standing support of abortion, various LGBT rights, and expansive government on every front, NPR likes to see itself as virtuously “objective” in its news coverage. But when it comes to the presentation of a day’s news, as we’ve pointed out here repeatedly, there’s no such thing as real objectivity. It’s especially when NPR acts as if it has no starting point that it’s most misleading, for the whole task of selecting, ordering, and scheduling each day’s stories is an exercise in indoctrination. The fact that NPR has gotten very good at appearing to be objective only heightens the network’s danger and increases the need to end its government sponsorship.
Yet what’s really wrong with NPR is not so much what it does with the news but that it does it with our own funds. Its reporters take our money sometimes to disagree openly with us, sometimes to ridicule us, and almost always to suggest eloquently that what Christians believe and stand for is just one outdated and deficient view among many. All this, mind you, is fine to say—but not at our expense.
Pray for NPR? Maybe. But please don’t be praying for its success.