May 22, 2011

Media, I Have Faith in You

My previous ramblings tried to put the recent failed doomsday predictions in humorous light. I had to. Too many things about them were just, well, laughable.

For example, my friend Barbie mentioned her minister saw an interviewer ask one of those rapture-prophets for all his money. You know, since the doomsayer obviously wouldn't need it. The man quickly changed the subject and was gone -- as in hauled arse gone. I don't care who you are, that there's funny.

Now, though, I want to be serious.

As a former journalist (newspaper reporter/editor/photog, depending on when and where), the coverage of this alleged "news event" bothers me. Number one is that it was waaay over-reported. The story deserved one, maybe twomentions in the "legitimate" news media; maybe not that many. I mean, the "prophet" that got the most press is a self-styled biblical expert who has made the same predictions again and again. I guess that means he's credible? Riiight.

What did the story receive? How 'bout two weeks worth of daily coverage? Wasn't that sorta like putting a pig on stilts, calling it a thoroughbred and running it in the Kentucky Derby?

For the most part, I've avoided discussing religion here in the Chronicles, largely because I see this blog as a fun thing. I'm not what some call a "Bible-pounder." I'm not one to hit others between the eyes with my spiritual beliefs, and I don't particularly want to deal with whatever controversy or criticism such discussion might spur. The whole coverage of that non-event, however, really irritated me. What chafed my behind most was how it treated Christians.

So, this is my blog, and I'm gonna talk about it. It's important.

If you haven't guessed, I'm a Christian. I also sin. A lot. No matter how hard I try not to. I'm also hypocrital, self-righteous, self-centered and selfish. I'm greedy, glutton-y, arrogant at times, lazy and sloth-like at other times. As Jimmy Carter once confessed, I have lusted in my heart -- more times than I can ever count. I'm not a Bible expert, nor do I pretend to be. I've not even read it through, although I did listen to it on CD once. Took me a whole year.

In short, I'm all theses thing, and less. As far as I know, all Christians are. We try to do right, but we constantly fail.  Jesus established His church for us. And thank God He did! Churches are filled with us sinners.

Why do I bring this up? Because in reading, listening to and watching the circus that this "event's" coverage became, it seemed to me that it quickly evolved from amusing, to ridicule, to indictment. As the designated day approached, it seemed too many reporters assumed a subtle attitude that told their audience, "Those damn crazy Christians are at it again, the right-wing nuts." In other words, the coverage seemed to shift intent and direction.

Before my media friends get their bowels in an uproar, no, I cannot cite specifics. I don't remember any. But I do remember on several occasions sensing subtle reporter hostility. If you closely watch those who communicate for a living, or focus on their words, you soon realize that just a small gesture, slight expression change, or the choice of one word over another can have a massive effect. It can slant a story. We see it all the time on TV, because visual clues are easier to detect than written. A slight smile here, a raised eyebrow there....

I'm not saying that all newspeople intentionally slant their information. Time demands, unconscious peer influence, workplace attitude all enter into it. But I have known, and know still, several reporters guilty of it. And of these, there were more than a couple who were recognized and honored for their "professionalism."

I submit such behavior is prejudicial. You don't see TV reporters smirk when reporting aberrant Mideast (read Moslem terrorist) behavior. Over time, such clues build an impression with the public that all Christians are Republicans, judgemental pharisees and spend their time looking under rocks for others' sins. Come to think of it, that's sorta like political and investigative reporters, except for the Republican part.... (Oops. I'm being judgemental. What did I tell you about Christians falling short? I'm an example.)

The rapture myth that's been sold to the public is non-Biblical, and the majority of mainstream Christians don't even give it a thought. You wouldn't know that from most of what you saw or read in the past week or two. That fallacy wasn't even addressed until late in the game.

What happened? I think a certain number of the media are, perhaps not just anti-Christian, but anti-religion. And although they may truly pride themselves on their objectivity, they never are truly bias-free. That perhaps is more apparent when they deal with Christian and religious topics, because anti-religious sentiment seems on the rise in our nation.

I don't want the news media promoting my version of Christianity, or even religion. I don't want to force my faith on anyone. My role is just to live a Christian life and let that speak for me. I'd like my media friends, however, to be honest with themselves and to recognize their prejudices, as we all should. We all have biases. We're human. I want the nation's newspeople to stop painting those of faith all with the same brush.

I want members of the media, at all levels, really to think about their responsibility to, not only to their audiences, but those about whom they write. I want them to consider the consequences of what they say and how they say it. Most do. But not all.

I want media "stars" to reconnect with the average person. They're above it all. Some of them have no reason to feel justified and infallible, and I want them to take greater responsibility. Almost every reporter I've ever met sees him/herself as a servant of the public. I want them to start acting like one. They can do it!

Then, maybe we all can just dance....

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