A cringe-inducing FoxNews.com interview between religion scholar Reza Aslan and "Spirited Debate" host Lauren Green has gone viral, with Buzzfeed calling it “the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done.”
Aslan’s book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” paints a portrait of Jesus based on the tumultuous era in which he lived and the threat he posed to the stability of the Roman Empire. His version of Jesus doesn’t completely jibe with the pacifist figure of the Gospels, which is why some conservatives — or at least other denizens of Fox News — have suggested that Aslan is biased because he is Muslim.
Green got to this subject right out of the gate, opening the interview with this question: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”
Aslan, an Iranian American who briefly converted to evangelical Christianity as a teenager, was a little taken aback by the line of questioning. He explained that he is “a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”
But, unsatisfied with Aslan’s credentials, Green pressed on with the but-why-would-a-Muslim-write-about-Jesus line of questioning. “It still begs the question, though, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” she asked Aslan, who has also written about Islam, Judaism and Hinduism.
“Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually,” Aslan explained. (Technically, according to his website, Aslan is an associate professor of creative writing, though he has three separate degrees in world religions.)
Throughout the interview, Green seemed to object to Aslan’s background more than the actual contents of the book, which were not addressed until more than five minutes into their conversation — and then only briefly.
Aslan explained that, according to his research, Jesus was “a real political revolutionary who took on the religious and political powers of his time on behalf of the poor, the meek, the dispossessed, the marginalized … and whose death launched the greatest religion the world has ever known.”
At this point, Green interrupted Aslan again, asking him whether a Muslim writing about the founder of Christianity wasn’t like a Democrat writing about Ronald Reagan. (If you'd like to hear more about the contents of Aslan's book, try this recent interview on "The Daily Show.")
“It would be like a democrat with a PhD in Reagan, who has been studying his life and history for two decades, writing a book about Reagan,” he replied. “I think it’s unfair to just simply assume because of my particular faith background that there is some agenda on this book. That would be like saying a Christian who writes about Muhammad is by definition not able to do so because he has some bias against it.”
Finally, Green tried to argue that Aslan had somehow misled readers by not disclosing his religion. But he pointed out that it is discussed in the introduction to his book.
“Every single interview that I have ever done, on TV or in print, says I’m a Muslim,” he replied. “I would actually encourage you to actually try to find media that doesn’t mention my biography, which, by the way, again, is on the second page of my book.”
And with that, Green concluded the interview.