Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Stretching the truth

THERE HAVE BEEN times in the years I have tried to combine being a journalist and a Jesus follower that I have felt a little like one of the four lepers in the Old Testament story of the siege of Samaria.

You may recall the account from 2 Kings 7: Banished from the city, they were caught in the no man’s land between God’s people and the enemy. Both groups saw the quartet as questionable, to be kept at a distance, even though they had good news to tell.

Sadly, the wariness with which many Christians and mainstream journalists have long viewed each other seems to be turning to open warfare lately.

But while they are all too often adversarial, I would contend that of any groups, journalists and Christians have perhaps the most in common. That is, if only they were prepared to look a little more closely. After all:

• Each sees their life work as a calling.
• Each is pursuing truth as they see it.
• Each wants to change the world for the better, in some way.
• Each believes in the power of the written word.
• Each grieves its martyrs: 90,000 Christians were killed in 2016, when 74 journalists were killed.

In their best version, each is driven by a line from poet Robert Frost that for me captures the essence of being either a journalist or a Jesus follower: someone with “a lover’s quarrel with the world.” In other words, a holy dissatisfaction with the way things are.

There’s a downside to both groups, though. Each can, if not careful:

• Develop a self-righteous, hero-crusader mentality.
• Hold others to higher public standards than they own privately.
• Get cocooned in their little world of like minds.
• Let image, rather than the word, dictate what they consider to be important.

The two groups need to afford each other a little more respect.

When Martina Purdy, the BBC’s veteran political correspondent in Northern Ireland, announced in 2014 that she was leaving journalism to join a convent, she caused some consternation.

She described switching the newsroom for the nunnery as pursuing a “completely different way of life,” though I’d beg to differ a bit. As I have observed before, the news world and the world of the Good News need not be at odds. Jesus and journalism can—should—go together.

For me, she may have chosen a new course, but she’s still headed in the same direction. That’s how I have felt since stepping away from a career in mainstream journalism. What’s changed is the location, not the vocation.

You could say I have been trying to stretch the truth between two groups that both believe only they have a firm grasp on it.

Adapted from The Newsroom and the Nunnery, published October 23, 2014

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