...I Know You Are, But What Am I?

When I was a kid, I got picked on repeatedly. I was the target of just about every bully in the neighborhood. By the time I got to high school I was a bit bigger than my classmates, so a lot of that trouble started to disappear. When I got to college I was a solid six foot four inches tall, two hundred fifteen pounds, and with the knowledge and confidence of being a wrestling coach I found it very easy to take a job working as concert security at the local arena.

But after working dozens of concerts, I noticed something strange, in all of those events; not once was I ever in a scuffle with anyone my size or bigger. It didn’t take long to figure out that there seemed to be two distinctly different yet similarly aggressive stereotypes out there. When I was little, I’d fallen victim to the bully who uses his size and strength to intimidate smaller and weaker kids. However, once I filled the role of bigger and stronger, my nemesis became those with a “Napoleon complex”, someone who tries to overcome feelings of inferiority with increased antagonism.

This dynamic came to mind when I saw the unfortunate choice of cover stories on Newsweek magazine during holy week. While millions of people celebrated Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Newsweek questioned the possible “Decline and Fall of Christian America”.

Citing the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey, the article points to a 10 percent decline in the number of self-identified Christians since 1990. Unfortunately for Newsweek, according to a Pew Research Center survey, another thing that seems to suffer the same decline is the readership of print and online newspapers and news magazines. The problem with this is that Newsweek never came close to matching Christianity’s popularity in the first place, so if both trends continue, I’d feel more secure in my faith than I would in having a job reporting its demise.

Aside from being an obvious ploy for readership, this is just another case of the little guy taking a swing at the bigger and stronger, hoping that they will somehow erase their own perceived inferiorities. What I think really burns their bylines is that even though Jesus hung on a cross more than two thousand years ago, more people today believe in the relevance of his teachings than the credibility of the media. It bugs them that a much larger portion of the population seeks truth from the Bible than from the pages of their magazines.

But if you watch or read any news lately, is it any mystery as to why that is?  While we’re still a ways away from declaring Christianity dead, ethics in Journalism seems to be a whole other matter. I don’t care who you are or what your political leanings, I dare you to sit down and make a list of the journalists or reporters that you trust. Then ask yourself whether you would rather lend your car to anyone on that list, or the priest, minister or pastor of a local church you don’t even attend. Yeah, I gotta go with the man of the cloth on that one.

Actually, the biggest hurdle in that task might just be making the list in the first place. When I googled “most trusted journalist” a New York Times article on Jon Stewart topped the list.  However, the most revealing part of that experiment was not seeing the words “Jon Stewart” and “Journalist” in the same sentence; it was that the search only revealed 350,000 hits, a mere pittance in search engine terms.  For example, google the term “asparagus ice cream” and you get 2,430,000 hits.

You just can’t settle on any one news source anymore. Finding the truth requires you to do your own research. When you hear a story on the news, if you want to find the truth, you have to trace it back as close as you can to the source. You must peel back the layers of opinionated reporting and weed through the half truths and manipulated statistics to have any hope of digging up any hint of reality. If you showed someone 30 minutes of MSNBC and 30 minutes of FoxNews you’d be hard pressed to convince that person that they were talking about the same country, let alone discussing the same issues.

Maybe, just maybe, if Newsweek spent half as much time investigating the benefits of a strong Christian society as they do looking for a reason to denounce it, they might find the correlation between a focus on a higher moral responsibility and such devastating side effects as trustworthiness, honesty and reliability.

Even though the belief in journalistic integrity only requires a minimal faith in humanity, it still can’t hold a candle to Christianity which requires a huge amount of faith in the divine. 

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Volume 5, Issue 8, Posted 8:27 PM, 04.21.2009