Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Ditching the truth

While it’s fair to say that much of the mainstream media has a liberal bias, it’s a mistake for Christians to write it all off and retreat to their own little world—no matter how “fair and balanced” that may purport to be.

As I see it, the problem is that if truth is a highway, then the non-religious media (and I’m avoiding the word “secular” because when Christians use it they do so typically with a sneery tone of condescension) by and large veers off into a ditch on one side, while the church all too often careens into the other.

Many everyday mainstream journalists would dismiss the idea of ultimate meaning, truth with a capital T. As such, anything that is transcendent tends to get viewed either with sentimentality, suspicion, or cynicism. I’m reminded of the story of a young, zealous reporter long ago sent out to cover flooding that devastated the local area. He telexed back an account that began dramatically, “God stood silently by as raging waters…”

Pleased with himself, he was disappointed to get a telegram back from a snarky editor in the newsroom: “Forget flood. Interview God.”

But while the typical nonbelieving journalist may reject the notion of absolute truth, he or she is very committed to the facts. For the most part they want to get the details right—facts are their lifeblood, after all—even if they may interpret or present them inaccurately as far as those with eyes of faith are concerned.

It’s worth remembering, though, that just because a Christian, a church, or a ministry is cast in a negative light, that does not automatically mean the individual or group in question has been the victim of a media-jacking.

It was refreshing recently to see a pastor who’d first said when he came under local media scrutiny for his big new house that the reporter concerned wanted to make the church look bad later told his congregation: “This is a news story and the media is not our enemy.”

All too often when the mainstream news media is accused of being “out to get Christians” it is actually telling it just how it is—regrettably, more truthfully than the Christian world. That’s because the church is often so committed to truth with that capital T that she is all too sloppy with the facts.

We seem to think that because we are pursuing a higher purpose we don’t have to be as clear about the details. It’s like we feel we have to act as God’s PR agents, soft-pedaling the bad news and pumping up the good.

The average person in the pew does it, too. Take the Christian who attends a revival meeting and then tells friends exultantly that half the people in the meeting hall went forward at the altar call. The implication is that everything went swimmingly, God is awesome, hallelujah. Well, yes He is, and all those people did go up, but a whole bunch of them were counselors, making themselves available to talk to anyone who expressed interest.

Frankly, some of the church scandals that have been broken by the mainstream media in the past few years should have been exposed first by the church. The Bible isn’t coy about telling it like it is, but too many times those of us who read it want to tell things like we think they should be.

For both the “secular” and “sacred” media there can be a gap between the truth of the matter and the matter of Truth. They each ditch the part that doesn’t suit them.


2 Responses to “Ditching the truth”

  1. Russ Herald

    Nice piece. One point I would add is that Christians like myself who are politically liberal (read Democratic), find ourselves more and more estranged from evangelical Christians who seem to view “conservative” (read Republican) as the only option for followers of Jesus. I am morally conservative but politcally Democratic, and saddened that many believe those convictions cannot go together.
    What I long for, from my distant european perch, is to hear of Christians who reach across borders because they are followers of Christ. Christians of any stripe who are followers of Jesus first, and conscientiously avoid the traps that the media of this world lay for us. For these media too, conservative or liberal, are part of the world that Scriptures tell us is fading away.

    • Andy Butcher

      Good point, Russ. It’s ironic that in the church we resent being labeled by the media, but are very quick to put labels on others. Coming from Europe where Christian values and principles were acknowledged on the right and the left, it’s odd to see the often stark divide in the U.S.


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