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Monday, December 5, 2016

You would never have even seen Fox News host Lauren Green’s interview with scholar Reza Aslan, which only aired on FoxNews.com, if it hadn’t been so ridiculous.

For nearly 10 minutes Green repeated the same basic attack against Aslan’s book  Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth: “How can a Muslim write a book about Jesus?”

Forget that at least one of the Gospels, along with some of  the most popular Christmas songs, were written by Jews. Aslan, who converted back to Islam, the faith of his childhood, after converting to Christianity, calmly explained over and over why he — a historian and Ph.D. in the history of religion — had written a book about “the founder of Christianity,” a phrase Green kept using.

“Anyone who thinks this book is an attack on Christianity hasn’t read it,” Aslan said.

Notably, Green had no such qualms when a Baptist wrote a book about Islam.

The New Republic‘s Marc Tracy helps explain how this inexplicable interrogation went viral. The book now tops the bestseller list on Amazon and Aslan took to Reddit for an “Ask Me Anything” on Monday.

The simple explanation for why this “embarrassing” interview spread is that it’s hard to believe it even happened. Also, it is, as The Atlantic‘s David A. Graham writes, “a great example of the Fox News hype cycle.”

Fox News’ hostility to the book supposedly comes from the fact that the “liberal media” love Aslan’s book.

But The Washington Post’s Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite thinks there’s something deeper at play:

In fact, Jesus’s advocacy for the “poor and the dispossessed,” as Aslan documents throughout Zealot, is, in my view, yet another driver of the conservative Christian pushback against Zealot, in addition to the well-known Islamophobia message machine of the right.

The life and teachings of Jesus, understood in their historical context, are about feeding the poor, housing the homeless, caring for the sick and loving the neighbor as yourself.

That’s Jesus.

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