Devout Christian and controversial conservative gadfly Bill O’Reilly is never at a loss of words and his recent defense of his book Killing Jesus has given him opportunity to wax eloquent – perhaps his favorite pastime. However, has he been treated fairly?
He’s been mocked on late-night TV. He’s been nitpicked by theologians. He even found himself on the defensive in what should have been an ultra-friendly venue, the Food Network, not exactly the home of sensationalistic journalism.
There wasn’t such a brouhaha when he wrote the bestselling Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln. But now, he tackles the topic of faith and finds himself in the media’s crosshairs. Ridicule by such pundits as John Stewart and Stephen Colbert can be withering – even for somebody who basks in the media’s glare.
Of course, the book isn’t perfect. He opens with an odd assertion that Jesus was on Earth 36 years. Hmmmmm. The Bible and most traditions have Him beginning His ministry at age 30 and being crucified three years later at age 33 – then after His resurrection appeared for 40 before His ascension into heaven. O’Reilly never explains the 36-year assertion. At least a footnote would have been nice.
Then there’s the typical O’Reilly bluster – yes, he actually told the press that the book was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yikes. Naturally, that provoked snickers. Most Christians take very seriously their conviction that the Holy Bible is Holy Spirit-inspired. Southern Baptists use the term “God-breathed.” Was O’Reilly claiming his bestseller should be inserted into the Scriptures, perhaps between The Book of Acts and Paul’s Epistle to the Romans?
O’Reilly on Ray’s Food Network show
“While speaking in a recent interview with celebrity chef Rachael Ray, Fox television host Bill O’Reilly defended previous comments he made when he said the Holy Spirit guided him,” writes Katherine Weber at the Christian Post.
O’Reilly, who hosts Fox’s top-rated “The O’Reilly Factor,” told Ray on her daytime Food Network talk show that his claims regarding the Holy Spirit’s inspiration “were in-line with his Christian faith, and atheists had misinterpreted his comments,” writes Weber.
“Catholics and Christians believe there’s an interactive God,” O’Reilly told Ray, adding that God “pays attention to all of us, and that’s where the inspiration you get comes from.”
He made the divine inspiration claim on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”
O’Reilly told “60 Minutes” reporter Norah O’Donnell that specifically, that the Holy Spirit in the middle of the night inspired him with the name of the book. “All of the ideas come to me in the middle of the night, and one night, I just woke up and it went, ‘Killing Jesus,’” O’Reilly said. “And I believe – because I’m a Catholic – that comes from the Holy Spirit. My inspiration comes from that. And so I wrote Killing Jesus because I think I was directed to write that.”
O’Reilly on 60 Minutes
When O’Donnell asked O’Reilly if he considers himself chosen by God, O’Reilly answered: “I’m just one of many who have been given gifts. i can write. I can bloviate on TV. So I’m trying to use the gifts in a positive way. And I believe that’s all directed and that’s why I’m here on the planet.”
Atheist critics jumped on the claim, scoffing predictably – a rather ironic position by people who will admit freely they have no experience in hearing from God.
Howard Gensler, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, quipped that if “the Almighty had come to O’Reilly in a dream, telling him to write the book Killing Jesus, God might have come up with a more original title.” After all, it is the third of a series of books with very similar names.
“Stephen Colbert’s takedown of Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus is one of the most scathing and hilarious criticisms of the book yet,” writes media critic Teri Schwartz.