New day has dawned for Southern Baptist journalism
Don HinklePathway Editor
April 8, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY – It has only been in recent years that Southern Baptists – and particularly the laity — have come to understand the influence of state newspapers.
For the past 40 years moderates have controlled these primary sources of information to Southern Baptist churches and it is only in the last decade that conservatives have turned the tide in this critical area.
Conservatives, aghast and often too preoccupied in their battle with the rank liberalism eroding SBC seminaries in the 1960s and early 70s, awoke one morning to discover that a vocal minority of moderates had effectively cut them out of the communications process, leaving them with no means of disseminating information to the people in the pews.
The result has been decades of disinformation, half-truths and considerable confusion. I’ll leave it up to you to think of some examples.
Until recently most of the state newspapers in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) were run by editors sympathetic to moderate leaders who too often cuddled with heretics claiming to be some strain of Baptist. Twenty years ago only the Indiana Baptist had a conservative, pro-SBC editor. Today that number has grown to at least a half dozen (with me included) and more are on the way. Conservative journalists are now working in the news offices at our six seminaries, all SBC agencies and at Baptist Press, the news service of the SBC.
Meanwhile for some moderates, their loss of influence has been replaced with bitterness and — in too many cases — a hostile attitude toward conservatives who put up with their secular approach to journalism for far too long. Too often their bitterness has festered into little more than propaganda and personal attacks that have little resemblance to Christian journalism.
What do I mean by secular approach to journalism?
Journalists are taught that if you ask Brother John a question, then you must get Brother Doe’s point of view, too (presuming it is an opposite point of view). This tactic is supposed to make journalists appear detached from the newsmakers (Is that not an oxymoron?), something that is required if journalists are to be "objective" or "unbiased."
For example, let’s suppose a journalist asks Pastor Doe for his opinion on Wiccan witchcraft. Why then, as a Christian journalist, is one obligated to go ask a Wiccan witch to comment on what Pastor Doe said? Common sense tells me that I am not obligated, while Scripture warns us of those who would spread false doctrine.
In addition, journalistic objectivity is impossible to attain because reporters bring excess baggage to the table. We are all influenced by our environment, including our families, friends and college professors.
In case you have not noticed, The Pathway is biased. It is biased to Jesus, the SBC and the Missouri Baptist Convention. Not everyone will like everything The Pathway publishes and that is to be expected. At least we have the intellectual honesty to admit who we are and where we stand.
This is not to say we will not report negative news about the SBC or MBC when warranted and after prayer and wise counsel, for we affirm man’s sinful nature as much as we do God’s unlimited and unmerited grace. But we clearly carry the banner of both organizations and make no apology for doing so. This requires the highest level of integrity, professionalism, loyalty and courage
A lack of courage can be an acute problem for Christian publications. Marvin Olasky, editor of World magazine and a professor of journalism at the University of Texas, has identified four fears for Christian journalists to overcome. They apply to The Pathway as well and will give you more insight into where this news operation is headed theologically, philosophically and politically:
1. Do not be afraid of boldly stating the Christian worldview of reality, which includes both material and spiritual dimensions. The Biblical emphasis on truth-telling is fundamental to Christian journalism. We must never be afraid to report spiritual happenings as fact, not as a subjective impression.
2. Do not be afraid of selecting from the best of the methods of journalism, while always evaluating all means and ends in the light of Scripture (2 Cor. 10:5).
3. Do not be afraid that a new emphasis on journalism will distract from evangelistic or disciplining efforts. Journalism is pre-evangelistic work that can prepare individuals to accept the reality of God’s grace. It is also post-justification work in that it helps believers construct godly lives.
4. Do not be afraid to acknowledge that all created things, including the minds of journalists, are twisted by sin. Our minds are not capable of creating sound guidelines. Our only hope lies in learning Biblical principles of thought and conduct and relying on the Holy Spirit to help us make the right practical applications.
While Jeremiah 6:16 states The Pathway’s reason for existence, it is Joshua 1:9 that is commended to its reporters and editors in their quest to bring honor and glory to God: "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."