Posts tagged " media bias "

Good Christians: Bad Christians – Originally published on Aug. 26, 2009

January 2nd, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 1 comment

Sunday’s paper had a complimentary article about Richard Stearns, head of the Christian World Vision organization, known for tackling issues of worldwide poverty. It described Mr. Stearns’ transformation as a young man from agnosticism to committed Christianity and how his religious principles spurred him to leave a successful corporate position and use his skills for non-profit charity work.

Why then did I feel insulted after reading this article? Quite frankly, I felt that my Christian friends, quite a few of whom work for and support World Vision, were being given a back-handed compliment.

In the months following 9/11, the New York Times ran obituaries for every victim of the World Trade Center destruction. In the usual style of obituaries, they accentuated how loved the person was and in what ways he or she contributed to the world.

One of those obituaries was so bigoted and foolish that I read it a few times to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding. Unfortunately I didn’t cut it out so I can’t quote it exactly, but the insulting message that was conveyed was that John Doe was a charitable, generous man despite the fact that he was an active Republican.

Perhaps if I hadn’t seen that obituary or a continual stream over the years of subtler but incredibly smug assertions that conservative Christian or Republican equals mean-spirited, I wouldn’t have had any reaction other than finding this Sunday’s article interesting. But experience has left me with sensitized antennae.

So, it was disturbing to me that after paraphrasing Mr. Stearns’ book as saying that Christians have focused overly much on personal salvation and judging others rather than caring for the poor (and his book certainly might say this – though I do wonder if the emphasis is that of the article’s author rather than the book’s – I would have given more credence to a direct quote) the author of the Sunday piece quotes “the Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical leader” as saying for years that a change like that was coming. A quote later in the article from James Wellman, associate professor of American religion at the University of Washington says “younger evangelicals, in particular, are more internationally savvy and less addicted to the culture wars of previous generations.”

The message I heard? There are those “good Christians” who give charity and fight world hunger and then there are those “bad Christians” who are sticklers for theology and have a pesky habit of refusing to adjust their values to the latest liberal moral agenda. Richard Stearns is one of the “good Christians” though to be fair, the article does mention that World Vision employees (perhaps, the reader might be led to ask by the tone of the article, over Mr. Stearns’ objections?) sign an article of faith that includes a code of conduct that disallows both adulterous and homosexual behavior.

I don’t know Mr. Stearns nor have I read his book. But, as I said, I know many of his employees. They are charitable, humanitarian people. Their charitable spirit and adamantly conservative social views stem from one and the same place – their belief in God and His Bible. I know that they would not rank Rev. Wallis as a pastor they are comfortable having speak for them.

I have the unusual experience for an observant Jew of having spent time with men like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson as well as thousands of less well known Christians. It may not fit into the prejudiced stereotypes of liberal America, but these people give their money, time and effort helping human beings of all colors and nationalities around the world. They also attend pro-life rallies and vote their values. They spend their vacations going on missions providing dental and medical care or sweat equity building homes in South America and Asia. They also oppose homosexual marriage. This is not an either/or situation. My guess is that many, and perhaps overwhelming numbers, of the kindhearted and generous folk who cause organizations like World Vision to flourish are those whom a biased media frequently denigrates without ever bothering to actually get to know them. That “bad Christian” group might possibly even include Mr. Stearns himself.

Being Nice Means Not Doing Your Job!

January 25th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

William Safire’s language column in the New York Times is usually not a big source of controversy. But I was definitely ticked off by a line in the Jan. 11th, (2009) newspaper.

 

Commenting on the use of filler words, such as frequently starting sentences with, “Look” or “Well” which he attributes respectively to Joe Biden and Ronald Reagan, he mentions Caroline Kennedy’s proclivity for dropping the phrase “you know” into her sentences.

 

I certainly have no argument with Mr. Safire’s dislike of the phrase and agree that it has an adolescent association. My problem is with his comment, “In an Associated Press print reporter’s act of kindness, her use of the phrase was edited out…”

 

“Reporter’s act of kindness”? A reporter may certainly do an act of kindness. He may volunteer as a Big Brother, donate money to a worthy charity or invite an elderly neighbor over for a meal. A police officer or a teacher can do those same acts of kindness. But if the police officer apprehends two burglars and arrests one while releasing the second because he likes his bumper sticker, or if a teacher catches two students cheating and ignores one but not the other, it is not an act of kindness but a dereliction of duty.

 

The reporter’s job is to accurately report the news. If he is transcribing a speech, his responsibility is to accurately transcribe it. If he has a policy of making everyone sound more intelligent than they actually are, say by routinely improving vocabulary or deleting filler words, then the policy should be stated and consistently applied. Barring such a policy, choosing to make some politicians sound more mature and erudite isn’t a kindness; it is a betrayal of the public’s trust.

 

During those months when it seemed as if dozens of people were running in the Republican primaries, I had the opportunity to hear a few of the candidates speak. One gentleman left a truly bad impression with his use of over 100 “ums” in a ten minute speech. Talking to a friend later in the day, I found out that he had lost her support due to this language pattern. She was, quite reasonably, looking for a candidate whose ideas she agreed with and who could articulate those ideas. In many ways, Barack Obama’s victory emphasizes the importance of fluent speech.

 

As a mother, I have spent and continue to spend a great deal of effort trying to eradicate some of my own children’s random and frequent use of the word “like” in conversation. Caroline Kennedy has made my job easier by illustrating how sloppy speech can give an impression of immaturity and lack of intelligence whether it reflects the truth or not. On a different subject, William Safire has added another tool to my mother’s belt. He has helped me show my children how bias in the news media can take subtle and difficult to uncover forms.

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