Jesus Christ is the ultimate ‘reliable source’
Yesterday, we got a story pitch of sorts from the government. It had assembled some experts of its choosing on a particular subject and was offering us a chance to interview them. The government even provided us with suggested questions and said it would edit and produce a finished video clip for us, which it hoped we would feature on the web sites of all 40 of our newspapers.
The topic would be of interest to our readers, and the clip might give the appearance of an independently produced news interview, but it wouldn’t really be that. It would be staged, edited and ultimately controlled by the subject of the story. We passed.
This morning, I read about the demise of another staged news event – the decades-long practice of the White House to re-enact a portion of the president’s speeches for news photographers denied access to the real things.
Photographers, to their credit, didn’t like participating in that. It was phony, even if it wasn’t done for nefarious purposes.
There’s fake, and there’s real. As journalists, we’re flawed and we don’t always get it right, but we strive for it. We should want only the real deal, the authentic, the true. We battle internally to keep our own prejudices at bay. And yet we routinely encounter pressure, from all sorts of directions, to compromise truth. Stage this. Edit that out. Emphasize this, de-emphasize that. Do this story, kill that story. Some days, it’s as if Pontius Pilate is scoffing in our ears: “What is truth?” Truth becomes merely the spin that prevails.
We face the same pressures in our faith.
I’m always dismayed when I talk to professing Christians (or read the books of some leading modern pastors) who believe, and seem to be OK with the idea, that Christianity is more or less staged. Christ was a great moral teacher but not God. The Resurrection is a metaphor. It doesn’t matter whether the story about the virgin birth is true. And so on.
Such believers are willingly participating in staged religion. They see their spin as useful, good politics perhaps, a loving mythology for shaping the world toward their own vision of good. In the same way, pressure on journalists to compromise or embrace a particular spin always is portrayed as being for the best. It might not be completely authentic, but it achieves a worthy goal. Close enough. After all, “What is truth?”
But you can’t spin Christ. He is either one thing or the other. He either is the Truth, or the biggest lie ever.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15: “… if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead … And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
As journalists, our deepest conceivable shame would be to get labeled “false witnesses.” Thankfully, we never need fear that we are bearing false witness when we hold to the claims of Jesus. In John 14:1, our Lord said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” You can’t trust in him if you believe anything he said about himself was only spin or pretty language or worse, a lie. If you doubt in any way Christ as your savior or as the most reliable source of all time, you are going to have a troubled heart.
In modern newsrooms filled with skeptics, a journalist who professes Christianity merely as useful metaphor perhaps will be accepted, if warily, while one who holds fast to the exclusive truth claims of Christ perhaps will be mocked as an intolerant rube or even rejected outright. The pressure to compromise your testimony may be subtle, or intense, but you are going to have to deal with it one way or another. We should examine ourselves and ask which parts of Christ’s testimony about himself we doubt or are spinning into something else. May God show us our doubt and cause us to repent.
If we do not doubt, well then, hallelujah! Pray instead that we would not make ourselves false witnesses by denying what we know to be true. The pressure to compromise will be relentless (and I for one have sadly caved to it on more than one occasion), so seek out other faithful Christians for support, draw deeply from the well of Church history and the saints who lived before us, and most of all, call on the Holy Spirit.
This is not staged. Write the real story.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
— Hebrews 12: 1-2