I (Jim) read two things this morning that encouraged me both as a journalist and as a Christian.
One was a discussion by author and pastor Timothy Keller of how the world began, and how incompletely the science vs. religion has been presented and viewed by our culture. Those who shout the loudest with the most extreme points of view receive the most attention. So we have one side saying no thinking person could ever believe in God, let alone the book of Genesis, while the other side says no one can call themselves Christian if they believe the earth is more than 8,000 years old.
That makes for good theater and social media fodder, I suppose. But, how many media reports have you seen or read that quote Christians who believe in evolution as a creative process established by God – but stop short of believing in it as a philosophy that all is meaningless? Or, how many interviews have you seen with eminent biologists, geologists or physicists who do indeed believe in an infinitely creative God – but stop short of believing God created everything several thousand years ago, then put the dinosaur fossils in the ground to fool us?
The second item was a blog post by Rachel Held Evans featuring short essays by six people about how so many evangelicals’ recent rush to “Stand with Phil” made them feel. “Phil” is Phil Robertson, outspoken patriarch of the TV show “Duck Dynasty.” His comments to GQ magazine about homosexuality and race got him temporarily suspended by his network, and ignited impassioned mobs on social media (most of whom had not actually read the GQ article).
Again, depending on your point of view, the story line was either: “Let’s shout down those intolerant, evangelical rednecks who should be confined to the swamps” … or, “Let’s stand behind this courageous man’s man who stood up for what’s right and only said what we’re all thinking.”
As the people on either end of that discussion retreated to their own camps and preached to their choirs, the people in the middle didn’t get much attention at first. Those would be the people working in the trenches who get hit when either side lobs bombs from their safe fortresses. They’re the people who try to understand and engage with those who see life differently, rather than demonize each other.
It’s good to hear from those middle-grounders – the thinkers who don’t necessarily speak in sound bytes or organize Facebook petitions. They tend to bring the discussion back to a point where we as a society actually can profit from it.
That’s a good lesson for journalists, too. The loudest voices are the easiest to hear and to quote. But they’re usually not the real story, nor the best story.
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