If Jesus Says He Loves You, Check It Out: Manti Te’o, Faith, and Journalism

From Deadspin’s continuing coverage of the Manti Te’o sitch, something that actually interests me about it:

suitwearer 5 days ago Colin Cowherd (or however the fuck he spells it) this morning said that the fact Te’o is “a man of faith” means it was reasonable for the press to not pursue this story, despite the inconsistencies. What does that mean and why does it make me so annoyed?

Drew Magary @suitwearer 5 days ago Because he’s a fucking moron. The idea that having an open faith makes you a more reliable person is stupid. And with Cowherd still employed, it’s proof that you aren’t gonna see much change in how sports or covered. The media isn’t gonna stop offering you this sentimental dogshit. They’ll just steamroll through and keep offering the same terrible product they always do.

I don’t know who first figured out that muttering AS JESUS SAYS after every piece of stupid shit that pops out of your mouth made people afraid to question you, but I’d like to buy that public relations genius a beer and ask just how he came up with the idea.

(It probably was one of the disciples. Probably Paul. Paul was a dick.)

We give a ridiculously wide berth to “people of faith” already. We let them define faith however, which is why assbuckets like Bill Donohue can act like God’s Perpetually Snippy Receptionist and dole out who gets what paperclips from the drawer that day, because there’s no law saying he’s not a Catholic just because he’s a gigantic douche. We place no requirements on anyone “of faith” to demonstrate that faith whatsoever, absenting Democrats who happen not to want the state to regulate childbearing. All you have to do to be a “person of faith” is say that you are. Maybe put a plaque of some kind up during your interview.

It’s not like you have to show a diploma, after all. I got ordained on the Internet a few years ago and married some friends of mine (best idea ever, by the way, if anyone asks you DO IT) so technically I could set up shop in a storefront and start holding services. Technically I could do that anyway, provided I met zoning restrictions and whatnot. We let people do that, in America, be whoever they say they are. In most religions, the process of becoming a member is pretty loose. Hell, the process of becoming a LEADER is pretty loose. Again, Bill Donohue.

Part of that agreement to live and let live, though, should be not allowing people to use their professed faith as a bludgeon. If we are all who we say we are, then we all meet on equal ground. You don’t get a pass because you wave a crucifix around, and I don’t get a pass because I face east at dawn. We all should be required to live up to the same standards of truthfulness, generally non-assholish behavior, and character in action. We should all be subject to the same stringent examinations of our histories and stories. We shouldn’t be able to just sing some hymns and make all that inconvenient scrutiny go away.

As a “person of faith” (the First Church of Athenae is just be scotch and Galactica re-runs, so consider yourselves all converted) I’m insulted by the idea that because I can quote chapter and verse, I somehow have LESS work to do to prove myself in the world. I should have MORE. I shouldn’t be able to say, well, Jesus gives me strength (Jesus has been bugging me lately about coming over “just to talk,” for those tracking our soap opera) and everything you were about to ask about why I was a bitch to you that time flies right out of your head. That’s ridiculous. I am just as accountable for my actions as any atheist, as any agnostic, as anyone of any “faith” and I resent the concept that I should be treated delicately.

So the idea that it was “reasonable” for reporters not to question Te’o’s story (I think maybe they should refrain from covering these guys like the E True Hollywood Story every damn year but that’s me and I have no love for college football) because Te’o was religious is insane. If faith gives us all so much strength, then bring it on, fuckers. Ask the toughest questions. Pick over every detail. God’s here for me.

I think people didn’t question the Te’o story because it was an easy, pre-set narrative that sounded good and we’re all on deadline. Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by laziness and stupidity. But the idea that people of faith are inherently trustworthy is a lazy, stupid narrative too, and it’s past time we threw it out and started approaching every story from the same standard of skepticism, no matter what god a football player worships.


8 thoughts on “If Jesus Says He Loves You, Check It Out: Manti Te’o, Faith, and Journalism

  1. We’ve gone through the same sort of thing with Tim Tebow, yes? He was going to be the best evah because he was a true believer and, jaysus, Jesus wasn’t going to let down a 110% publicly demonstrative true believer, was he? How could he?
    The need in this country to elevate the faithful to near-mystical status is a chronic disease and the world of sports reporting isn’t immune.
    And, yes, it’s lazy and stupid, too.

  2. Colin Cowherd is probably the last person anyone should listen to for . . . well, anything really. Except for lessons on how to be insufferable. I sure as the world don’t know what his time-filling comment is supposed to mean.
    And Paul? Don’t get me started on THAT guy. “Serve one another in love”? You gotta be shittin’ me!

  3. Based on the laws of the Cosmos and on personal experience gained from working with hundreds of clients from 24 countries, allow me to act as your representative in a dialogue with the Cosmos in search of your love. You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you will find out what you had been waiting years for, and had even despaired of never being able to meet with your destiny.

  4. Think about all the posed pictures of Dubya praying that became instant internet memes.

  5. Thank you for being the only voice I’ve found so far to point out that the real story here isn’t who got “catfished” but the absolute laziness of those being paid as journalists these days. They hear something and instead of checking the story out wait until they hear it somewhere else (hopefully on the teevee) so they can report it because, you know, it’s gotta be the truth.
    It reminds me of that insurance commercial where the girl says “I heard it on the internet so it must be true, they can’t lie on the internet” (or however she puts it) and the weird fat guy walks up who is her date she met on the internet and he’s a “french model”.
    Time for a facepalm.

  6. I had been ignoring the Manti Te’o thing until I stumbled on a fascinating article by an ethnographer who has done work with Samoan immigrants at http://culturedigitally.org/2013/01/a-samoan-hoax/
    “So as an ethnographer of Samoan migrants, I want to say that I heard a number of stories that sound almost exactly like Manti Te’o’s story — naïve Christian golden boys who had been fooled by other Samoans pretending to be dewy-eyed innocents. Leukemia was even a theme, I guess Samoan pranksters keep turning to the same diseases over and over again. But I did this fieldwork before Facebook or cell phones, and even before email became all that widespread outside of college circles. All the stories I heard involved husky voices on telephones, and maybe a letter or two.”
    It’s a fascinating piece. It isn’t religion specifically or Christianity in particular that plays a major role. It’s the closed, family oriented culture facing immigration. Read the whole piece. It’s kind of sad, though not in the ways you might expect. I’m willing to bet you got this kind of thing in a lot of immigrant cultures, even more open ones. It sounds like something from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s old agony column in Forward.

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