FIRST-PERSON: Why do we need Christian journalists?

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)--While attending a press conference for the new seminary president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, it became apparent there were two kinds of questions being asked. As the press conference progressed, it became rather humorous to watch how one set of questions was coming from the speaker's left, while another set of questions was asked by the media on the speaker's right.

Those media sources on the left seemed intent on asking superfluous questions about the mechanics of seminary operations. They asked questions about whether the new seminary president would be politically correct with faculty hiring practices. They asked questions about his history of interaction with theological conservatives. It was as if they were looking for some speck of dirt to exploit.

The media representative on the right asked the new president questions pertaining to his vision for the seminary's mission and its work toward equipping future church leaders. When the article appeared in print, the difference was obvious. Both perspectives gave the standard historical data and the resume information. However, when the articles turned to discuss the president's leadership, one perspective focused on politically correct agenda items while the other focused on information churches could use with respect to the seminary's broader vision of theological education for today's ministry.

The article of the left appeared first in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and then reprinted in the Tulsa World. The Baptist Messenger printed an article (July 10 issue) representative of the right. The difference was obvious. The writers of the Star-Telegram article regurgitated the old moderate convention tripe used to attempt to discredit conservative leaders. They must have spent some time with the convention's former good ole boy network. Then, they proceeded to quote an embittered former president and the director of a moderate organization. The director of this particular moderate organization referred to conservative, grassroots Baptists as "well-meaning theological perverts." Who does he think comprise the mainstream of Baptist life? It's good and faithful, Bible-believing, soul-winning, grassroots Baptists.

But that's not all.

As if they were attempting to compete with "Legally Blonde 2" the writers expressed their lack of knowledge about the Texas Baptist landscape by securing a quote from only one of the state convention executive-directors. Texas has had two state conventions for several years now. Is it possible for people outside of evangelical life or Baptist life to ever grasp who we are and what we are about? How can darkness understand the light?

If the differentiation between the two types of media coverage about the seminary was huge, then the gap is gargantuan with the coverage of the Supreme Court's ruling on homosexual sodomy. The bulk of print media coverage has been devoted to those advocating gay and lesbian rights. Scott Lively of the Pro-Family Law Center in Sacramento, Calif., may have accurately predicted the future in a Time magazine quote, "I predict the already enormously powerfully gay political lobby in our state will consolidate its power further, and that every item on its agenda is going to get pushed through." Tragically, in most of the coverage by major news sources the voices for truth and righteousness were relegated to the obscure or portrayed as extremists.

The homosexual rights issue is polarizing our nation. The extreme right and the extreme left are both wrong. Homosexual behavior is evil and wicked. So is bashing people who engage in a particular kind of sin. Both extremes are biblically unconscionable. The vast mainstream of our nation embraces a Judeo-Christian perspective toward homosexual behavior. It is sin. God loves sinners and "is not willing that any should perish." "Alternative news" sources as the Christian press is called, are most often the only voices remaining to pronounce the tragic consequences of the Court's iniquitous decision and at the same time give hope to those desperately in need of the love of God through godly people.

Perhaps more than at anytime in history, we need Christian journalists who focus on the big picture of God at work through His people. We need journalists who are convictional Christians and not media hirelings, looking for secular acceptability. We need evangelical journalists telling the truth and working the daily news beats of our nation's media markets and we need journalists of faith serving God through Christian publications.

Is it possible that a few, fully surrendered students or people in our churches will answer the invitation of God to enter the sphere of Christian journalism?


John Yeats is editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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