The complimentary hotel breakfast featured good coffee, fluffy scrambled eggs and a rarity — rightly textured and properly seasoned grits. And, despite persistent rains, a skyline view was making an early morning appearance.

Yet, one of the two televisions was tuned to “Fox and Friends.” So, I found an empty table as close as possible to the other TV — featuring local news and weather.

But I couldn’t get far enough away from the other. So, I ate quickly and took my second cup of coffee back to my room.

The Fox News channel is not a friend to freedom or to truth or to loving one’s neighbor as one’s self — unless that neighbor looks, acts and believes precisely like oneself. It is a friend to privileged persons seeking self-appointed martyrdom.

The big news was not climate change burning the West or misinformed and politically motivated masses killing each other by not taking a lifesaving vaccine, resurgent racism or the gun violence that has become our national pastime.

The two stories I overheard were incomplete and misleading, when not outright void of facts. The first was the standard Fox fare of white Christian grievance — suggesting Christianity is under assault in America — with the host charging that “something has to be done about it.”

For those who may be in a Fox News-induced trance: No, your personal faith is not under attack in America. Neither are your so-called “family values.”

Rather Christian nationalism — that seeks to impose religious bigotry in the name of freedom and to claim special privileges in the name of a national religion — is being rightly opposed as unfair and unjust.

Listening to the early morning outrage — ratcheted up by hosts who expressed manufactured alarm at the mistreatment of Christians — would have one thinking that stake-burning persecution was knocking on every suburban door.

The second story was designed to elicit a similar response. Some mean ol’ American ice cream makers were expressing concerns over the continued building of Israeli settlements as part of the growing occupation of Palestinian territory.

The host said the Israeli prime minister has been doing this encroachment “for a long time,” as if that justifies the abuses. And then added that “companies should stay out of politics” — before taking a break for a My Pillow commercial.

For those, again, mesmerized by the Fox News faux alarms: No, the modern nation of Israel doesn’t have God’s blessing to steal land and needed water from Palestinians. Among other human rights violations, these actions have driven most Christians out of the very birthplace of Jesus.

Those two stories were all I could swallow along with the good grits and eggs. But they were enough to reveal why America can be largely divided into those who consume and regurgitate such nonsense and those who do not.

An alternative reality has been produced by this media outlet, which puts money and influence before truth and the common good. Such criticism, of course, is met by quick “both-sides” retorts about other media outlets.

However, while there are, indeed, clearly identifiable sources of counter ideologies, such deflections, defenses and false equivalences fail.

The opposing ideologies — even when vigorously expressed in other media — don’t inspire the same unwavering, personality-cult allegiance rooted in unfounded fear and misappropriated hatred. And the obsessive consumption and influence of rightwing media — Fox News in particular — is uniquely prominent in shaping American evangelicalism.

The talking points of these talking heads have become the authoritative realities of those who look to authoritarians to tell them how to think and what to believe. And the high price is the loss of truth and commitments to the common good.

Even the basic idea of “doing unto others as you would have them do to you” is regarded as an infringement on one’s own “rights” and privileges — as if Jesus ever said anything about that. Even to the point that taking simple and truly “pro-life” health and safety measures — to protect oneself and others — is considered an offense.

A major challenge of pastoral leadership today is that many congregants expect the Sunday sermon to align with what they heard on Fox News and talk radio rather than those weekday media messages to align with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Southern Baptist pastor in West Virginia expressed it this way to The New York Times: “[Pastors] get their people for one hour, and Sean Hannity gets them for the next 20.”

It is important to acknowledge where many Americanized Christians get their definitive doctrine and resulting discipleship — shaped by fear, discrimination, disinformation, self-victimization, anger and downright hostility — that is so starkly at odds with what Jesus Christ called his followers to emulate.

After I preached a sermon on anger several years ago, an older woman approached me with tears in her eyes. She told me of the sad transformation she had seen in her husband.

He had gone from being a kind and caring person, she said, to someone who was constantly angry, blaming and hostile to those unlike him. The personality change occurred, she said, when he became glued to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

She was not interested in anybody’s “what-about-ism.” She wanted her husband back.

This Fox isn’t even being sly. It is openly and intentionally filling willing minds with misinformation and hearts with rage. And the truth, American democracy and the Christian witness are paying a high price.

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