Over the weekend, Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green interviewed Dr. Reza Aslan, author of the new book "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." From the moment it began, the nearly 10-minute interview was contentious, with Green repeatedly questioning why Aslan, a Muslim, would have such a profound interest in penning a book about the life of Christianity's central figure.
There are five exchanges, in particular, that showcase just how contentious,uncomfortable, and even awkward, it was.
1. "You're a Muslim"
Green started the interview immediately by pointing out Aslan's faith and asking why, considering his personal theological views, he decided to write a book about Jesus.
"You're a Muslim. So, why did you write a book about the founding of Christianity?," she asked.
Aslan, citing his academic credentials and professional experience, responded.
"Well, to be clear, I am 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 happens to be Muslim," the author said. "I am an expert with a PhD in religions."
Green pushed the issue further, with Aslan again dismissing her questions about his faith.
2. Islamic Opinion About Jesus
Throughout the exchange, Green continued to question how Islam influenced Aslan's book. And, repeatedly, the author rebuffed her attempts to explore this matter, claiming that he is fully qualified to be writing the book and that his faith is of minimal importance surrounding the subject.
"I am a historian. I am a PhD in the history of religions. This isn't a Muslim opinion," he responded at one point. "This is an academic work of history -- not about the Christ or about Christianity for that matter. It's about a historical man who walked the earth 2,000 years ago in a land that the Romans found Palestine."
Still, Green forged on, asking how Aslan's findings differ from Islamic beliefs about Christ. The author mentioned two examples, noting that Islam doesn't believe that Jesus was crucified; the historian contends that he was. And while Christianity and Islam both believe in the Virgin birth, Aslan questions it in "Zealot."
"We've mentioned this three times now. I'm not sure what my faith has to do with my twenty years of academic study of the New Testament," he told Green.
3. "Many Scholars Disagree With You"
The journalist proceeded to mention scholars who disagree with Aslan's book, at points reading quotes from these experts.
"We're not just talking about people who disagree with you. Many scholars disagree with you as well," she said. "I want to get to the heart of -- what are your conclusions about Jesus?"
Aslan notes that he makes an effort in the book to place Jesus "in the world in which he lives," and he describes focusing upon the crucifixion and the notion that Jesus was seen as a troublemaker in his time. From there, the author says that he takes the claims of the Christian gospels and explores them.
Following this explanation, Green reads a comment from a reader -- one who believes that Aslan is biased and who questions the lens through which the book was written. The viewer said that the author writing about Christianity is akin to a Democrat writing a book about why Reagan was not a good Republican.
"Well, it would be like a Democrat with a PhD in Reagan who has been studying his life and history writing a book about Reagan," Aslan responded.
4. "Why Would You Say That?"
After sharing the viewer's comments, Green steps in to ask a similar question surrounding bias.
"But then why would a Democrat want to promote democracy by writing about a Republican?," she asked, piggybacking off of the question that the viewer posed.
"Ma'am, may I just finish my sentence for a moment," Aslan responded, going on to again defend his academic record as the basis of his writing the book.
Rather than dancing around the allegation, Green simply stated it: "But Reza, you're not just writing about religion from the point of view of an observer."
Aslan, clearly unhappy with her comment, asked, "Why would you say that?"
Green then responded that there are many other scholars -- individuals with whom she has spoken -- who disagree with Aslan's information and the conclusions to which he has come. To that, the author claims that it seems as though, based on her assessment, the religion correspondent hasn't actually read his book.
"I think it's unfair to just simply assume because of my particular faith background that there is some agenda on this book," the author said. "That would be like saying that a Christian who writes about Muhammad is, by definition, not able to do so because he has some bias against it."
5. Full Disclosure?
Full disclosue was also a big issue for Green, who brought up the fact that she believes the author has been less-than-forthcoming about his background in past interviews -- a charge he denied.
"I believe that you've been on several programs and never disclosed that you're a Muslim," she charged.
Aslan noted that the biography in his book provides this information and that he often discusses it. Additionally, he let Green know that he sees himself as a "prominent thinker" and that she may simply be unaware of just how well-known he is.
"You may not be familiar with me, but I'm actually quite a prominent thinker in the United States," Aslan said. "I've written a number of books on Islam."
Watch the uncomfortable interview in its entirety, below:
- Books & Publishing
- Arts & Entertainment
- Reza Aslan
- Fox News
- Lauren Green