Journalists, interviews and the crying game

When someone cries in front of you, how do you feel?

What if you’re the one who made them cry?

Watch this video and note how it makes you feel.

A prevailing opinion among TV news crews and others who interview people for video stories is that tears are absolute gold. They rivet the audience’s attention — the video analytics go through the roof. For nonprofits, they evoke an emotional response that might even spur people to, oh, I don’t know, give money.

In some circles, the ability to draw tears out of an interview subject is a sign of how good the interviewer is. On his ESPN interview show, Roy Firestone used to routinely make pro athletes cry — to a point where it became a running joke.

As a Christian and a journalist, I’ve wrestled with this tension. I hate the idea that making my subject cry is a goal. Of course subjects cry sometimes. I do videos for our local rescue mission, interviewing people in recovery from addiction and trauma. When a person gets to a particularly emotional story and needs a minute to compose themselves, I’ll usually pause the camera until they feel good about continuing. But their emotion is certainly part of their story.

I suppose the reason behind someone’s tears is the key ethical question. Are they telling me a story they’re comfortable telling — one so close to their heart that it causes them to tear up? Have they willingly stepped to the equivalent of a podium because they feel compelled to say something?

Certainly the most memorable part of former president George W. Bush’s eulogy for his father was when he broke down crying at the end. I cried with him. No, I would not have stopped the camera.

The only time I’ve ever broken down publicly was when I gave a speech to a college journalism convention the week after five students were murdered on our campus. The speech was carried on Chicago radio and I was OK with that. Everyone in the room was feeling similar emotions and it helped me to express those to a friendly audience.

In other instances, though, the person has been traumatized and media actions feel intrusive and unwanted. I knew one of the student editors at another campus where a mass shooting happened. During the early aftermath, with network TV cameras everywhere on campus, she was overcome with emotion. As she knelt to weep, she heard someone say, “She’s crying! Let’s get this!” Suddenly a camera was 12 inches from her face.

Am I catching someone at one of the worst moments of their life? Do my questions and the presence of my camera make the story better, or worse for them? Do they tell the story fairly and respect the person’s dignity? And what is my responsibility to my employer and to my audience? Can those coexist?

Another friend, reporting for a major newspaper after the 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, found himself in a gymnasium where distraught family members waited for news. Rather than simply approach people coldly, he walked silently around the gym with his reporter notebook clearly in view. People stared daggers. Some cursed him. Others made gentler eye contact, and he used that cue to decide whom to approach respectfully and humbly. He delivered a powerful story.

Recently, the Washington Post spoke with NPR’s Terry Gross, one of the best interviewers of our time. The reporter asked Gross how she deals with the possibility of exploiting someone in a bad moment. Gross responded:

“It’s different when you’re talking with politicians because there’s a level of accountability we should demand. But private people don’t owe us anything. So I always tell my guests, “If I ask you anything too personal, let me know, and I’ll move on to something else.” This week, one of my guests just broke up in tears. I just said, “Do you need a moment? Do you want to stop?” And that’s what we did. I don’t like to exploit people’s emotions. Like: Oh, yeah, tears! That’s going to be great radio. Let’s keep it going. Because we all have our public self and our family self, and our truly personal self that is off-limits to everybody. I’m hoping for the best candid version of the public self. Not to trick you, or outsmart you, or show you up.”

The best candid version of the public self. I like that approach. It honors the person I’m interviewing, and I think it honors God.

 

Posted in Ethics, Reporting, sensitivity, Videography | Tagged , , ,

Dec. 24, 1968: The day everything changed

NASA

 

This Christmas Eve marks the 50th anniversary of not only one of the greatest achievements in human history, but also one of our most transcendent moments. Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago about Apollo 8.

—-

On Dec.  21, 1968, 40 minutes after leaving Earth’s orbit, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders fell silent. Looking back at just-separated third stage of their Saturn V rocket, they’d caught sight of something else.

Earth.

They had just become the first humans to view their entire planet in one glance. Even today, only 24 people in the entire history of humanity have witnessed that. All saw it between December 1968 and December 1972, the last Apollo mission.

Popular history has relegated Apollo 8’s mission as a footnote, a dress rehearsal for the Big One. Seven months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would walk on the moon, fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 pledge to accomplish the goal by the end of the decade. But Apollo 8 blazed the trail, proving dramatically and for the first time that humans not only could leave Earth’s orbit, they could fly to the moon, orbit 10 times and make it back home safely.

Even Armstrong would write 30 years later in National Geographic: “Apollo 8 was the spirit of Apollo – leaving the shackles of Earth and being able to return.”

Apollo 8 also meant something bigger. From lunar orbit on Dec. 24, the astronauts encountered a surprise that would change the way humanity looked at itself and its Maker.

That morning, the Apollo 8 Command Module was entering its fourth orbit of the moon. As Flight Commander Borman executed a routine roll, Anders looked out his window and uttered an instinctual response.

“Oh, my God.”

Hanging in the blackness of space, like a bright blue ball, was Earth, rising in the sky above the lunar landscape.

Anders’ entire statement at that moment was one to which any vacationer can relate:

“Oh, my God, look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth comin’ up. Wow, is that pretty!”

“Hey, don’t take that. It’s not scheduled,” Borman joked. In all of the preparations for carefully studying and photographing the moon, no one had thought about turning the camera back toward home, 240,000 miles away.

When the Earthrise came into view, the crew’s Hasselblad 500 EL camera was fitted with a Zeiss Sonnar 250mm telephoto lens and loaded with a Kodak 70mm black-and-white film magazine. As Anders – or was it Borman? – shot the first couple of frames, Lovell rummaged through a storage locker to find a color film magazine. The spacecraft continued rolling, and Earth disappeared from the astronauts’ view.

“Well, I think we missed it,” Anders said.

Then it reappeared in the window. With color film now loaded, Anders lined up the shot.

Recognizing the enormity of the moment, Lovell excitedly played back-seat photographer.

“You got it?”

“Yep,” Andrews said.

“Take several. Take several of ’em. Here, give it to me.”

“Wait a minute. Just let me get the right setting here now. Just calm down. Calm down, Lovell.”

“Well, I got it right – aw, that’s a beautiful shot. Two fifty at f/11.”

“Now vary – vary the exposure a little bit.”

“I did. I took two of ’em here.”

“You sure you got it now?”

Oh, did he have it. Once the film was safely back home and developed, the world realized that Anders’ Earthrise shot might be the most stunning photograph ever taken. He’d already shot images of the whole planet during those early moments away from Earth’s orbit. And an unmanned probe in lunar orbit had photographed the whole planet in low-resolution black-and-white in 1966. But this one was full color, shot by a human from the vantage point of another world.

Lovell later would describe the site of fragile Earth as “a grand oasis in the vastness of space.” In a New York Times front-page essay, the poet Archibald MacLeish wrote: “To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”

Anders’ iconic shot would inspire the first Earth Day in 1970, and decades later would be listed first in Life magazine’s “100 Photographs that Changed the World.”

—-

That evening, Christmas Eve 1968, NASA planed a live television broadcast. Borman, Lovell and Anders would deliver a greeting from lunar orbit. They’d been instructed by NASA only to “say something appropriate.”

All three had wrestled with what that should be. They wanted something with spiritual meaning, but nothing they came up with seemed to fit the moment. Two weeks before the mission, Borman called on a friend, Simon Bourgin at the U.S. Information Agency, for help. Bourgin was stymied, too, so he called freelance writer Joe Laitin.

Paging through a Gideon Bible for inspiration, Laitin worked late into the night, typing and then crumpling hundreds sheets of paper. Finally his wife, Christine, suggested he “begin at the beginning.” Laitin turned to the creation story in Genesis 1 and knew he had it.

He sent a memo to Bourgin, suggesting Genesis 1:1-10 and adding a brief closing line. Bourgin typed the text into a letter to Borman. The astronauts loved the idea. Borman photocopied the letter and added it to the flight plan.

Now, with millions watching from all over Earth, they were on. After short descriptions of what they’d done that day in lunar orbit – incredible enough – they turned to Bourgin’s letter.

Anders went first:

“We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.”

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Lovell read next:

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Borman finished:

And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

—-

Ironically, the space program’s most spiritually powerful image was not of where we went, but where we came from. Coming from the only three humans who, to that point, had ever seen a God’s-eye view of the entire Earth, the creation story was never more powerful. Human endeavor intersected with the vastness and beauty of creation, and the only appropriate response was to look not at ourselves, but Godward.

—-

Watch NASA’s recreation of the Apollo 8 Earthrise moment.

 

Posted in Photography, Technology, Uncategorized, World events | Tagged , ,

Reporting wonder

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Impact stories and the power of one

Columbia Pictures

Think of the best movie you’ve ever seen. A movie that did more than just entertain, but impacted you — changed the way you look at the world. In fact, list your top three. We’ll wait.

Got ’em? Now summarize each movie’s theme with one word. So for instance …

It’s a Wonderful Life: Faith.

The Wizard of Oz. Self-sufficiency (OK, that’s two words but we’ll allow the hyphen).

Saving Private Ryan. Sacrifice.

Film critic Roger Ebert once wrote: “All good art is about something deeper than it admits.” In other words, universal themes emerge — themes that resonate with people even if a story’s characters and setting don’t. Maybe the theme is courage. Or hope …rescue … justice … redemption.

Now think about your nonprofit organization. Can you reduce your theme to one word? If you can, you’ve probably zeroed in on your primary impact. Next, you need to engage your audience in that impact. What is the observable change created? The change might be personal, spiritual, cultural, economic, social … or likely some combination of those.

Let’s say you operate a rescue mission for homeless and hurting people. You could spout statistics: Last quarter you served 4,000 meals, hosted 1,000 people overnight, graduated 12 people from your rehab program, received $80,000 in donations.

All well and good. But stats aren’t very relatable. Audience members can’t wrap their minds and emotions around the collective predicament of a thousand people.

Instead, show them one. Let your nonprofit’s single-word theme lead you to one person whom your work has served and who exemplifies that word. Tell that person’s story and show how it intersects with your organization’s. Let your audience form an emotional connection, not only with the person but with the story’s universal, relatable theme.

There’s your impact.

For our hypothetical rescue mission, maybe the impact theme is restoration. And maybe the person is Mary, single mom of two kids who got injured, lost her job and wound up hooked on prescription pain killers.

To tell a good story, be it in written or visual form, you need to understand how story works. Newspaper editor Jack Hart, in his book Storycraft, explained it this way:

“At its most basic, a story begins with a character who wants something, struggles to overcome barriers that stand in the way of achieving it, and moves through a series of actions — the actual story structure — to overcome them.”

Simpler still: Bad interrupts good. Sacrifice and struggle are required. Good prevails. People are hardwired for this storyline.

So, you trace Mary’s life before, during and after her intersection with your organization. Her life falls apart. She comes to the rescue mission and enters the residential rehab program, where she perseveres to beat addiction, receive job training and get a new start. Today she lives a victorious, grateful life. In doing so, you connect your audience to the change you are creating together. They see their role in the larger story.

Do this well, and maybe people will still be talking about you 25 years later. When Roger Ebert wrote that line about good art, he was reviewing The Shawshank Redemption, which usually appears in lists of the best films ever made. It’s the story of a banker, wrongly convicted of two murders and sentenced to life in a New England prison. Shawshank remains so beloved because of its one-word, universal theme: hope.

“I believe part of the reason the movie is so important to people is . . . that in a way it works as a whole for whatever your life is,” lead actor Tim Robbins told Vanity Fair in 2014. “That no matter what your prison is … it holds out the possibility that there is freedom inside you. And that, at some point in life, there is a warm spot on a beach and that we can all get there. But sometimes it takes a while.”

*I originally wrote this post for PureCharity, a great organization committed to helping nonprofit organizations grow and thrive.

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Together, a bigger view of God

Photo: Jim Killam

Montana’s Glacier National Park has long been one of my favorite places on Earth. God’s hand is all over this magnificent wilderness. From lush valleys, waterfalls train your eye upward to their source: glaciers and snow-capped peaks. Meanwhile, grizzlies, mountain goats and bighorn sheep roam the slopes.

A paradise-on-Earth setting can say a lot about how we perceive our omnipotent creator. I appreciate Glacier’s beauty from the perspective of a writer and photographer. It makes me feel small amid God’s vast splendor and majesty.

But I’ve also hiked here with my friend Andy, a geologist. Where I see God’s artistry, Andy sees him in the details — how these mountains were formed over eons as layers of sediment stacked and then uplifted diagonally by tectonic shift. And then how the glaciers carved those immense valleys through amounts of pressure and time we humans can’t fathom.

Another time, I hiked with a park ranger and we talked about seeing God in the ecosystem, where all living things depend on each other for balance and ultimately for life itself. Every plant, every tree and every animal leads to a better understanding of God as master designer.

Our culture has mistakenly decreed that there’s a spiritual realm and a scientific realm, and never the twain shall meet. Most of us know better. In Storycraft, a wonderful book about writing narrative nonfiction, newspaper editor Jack Hart wrote: “If you walk through the woods, and you know the names of all the plants, you’ll see more.” I would add that you’ll get a bigger view of God.

There’s certainly a place in our faith for theological argument. Glacier National Park is not that place, even though we experience God and sense his omnipotence in different ways here. When we compare notes, it’s not with the idea that one needs to be proved wrong in order for the other to be right. It’s more with a sense of awe and wonder at God’s infinite complexity and his sovereignty over not just the “spiritual” realm. “Omni” really does mean “all.” He ordains scientific order and precision as much as beauty and wonder.

What does all of this have to do with reporting God’s stories? I think creation teaches us to develop an eye for wonder, for things that point to him. As we learn to look and listen, we do indeed see more. Then we can bring that perspective everywhere we go. When I as a reporter better understand how different people experience and relate to God, I start to notice things. For instance, in several trips to the Middle East, I learned to see God:

  • In the relationships that developed between Muslim refugees and Christian aid workers.
  • In the palpable history of a land where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked. Where Moses walked. Where Jesus walked.
  • In the beauty of desert wilderness, punctuated with green valleys that produce abundant crops.
  • In the mathematical precision of the pyramids, or Roman temples.
  • In churches, where believers worship enthusiastically, gratefully and in unity among various denominations.
  • Amid persecution — real persecution, the kind where people get killed — which believers consider part of their Christian identity.
  • And in rare instances when God works outside of the natural laws he established (which is the very definition of a miracle).

Once I’ve collected these glimpses, I can embed them into stories. This not only gives the audience a better look around a place, but also lets them see God in ways both familiar and not. It’s a chance to help people expand their view of omnipotent God as I expand my own.

Photo: Jim Killam

Posted in Creativity, Faith, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Writing advice from a bear of very little brain

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Eternity and the ultimate slam

Photo: Stephen Green. https://twitter.com/sgreenphoto1

Please indulge me as I show this video. If you’re a Washington Nationals fan, I’m sorry. Wait. No, I’m not.

https://www.facebook.com/ESPN/videos/2236865546360189/

Last night was every kid’s baseball fantasy: a walk-off grand slam. They call it the ultimate slam or the golden homer, and it’s only happened this way two other times in Major League history: bottom of the ninth inning, two outs, two strikes, bases loaded and your team trails by three runs.

Then: David Bote sends a ball deep into the night. Bedlam. Utter and absolute joy. Defeat seemed inevitable and then, suddenly: Cubs win!

Yes, it was just a baseball game and no, in itself it had no eternal significance. So why do I keep going back and watching that video from last night?

It was one of those glimpses. They’re different for everyone, and if you’re not a Chicago Cubs fan this all probably seems ridiculous.  But the older I get, the more I’m convinced that we’re wired for eternity. We know it when we see it, because it’s home — even in the briefest of previews. Every good story and every human passion are about something deeper than they admit. We suffer now, knowing that one day all will be made right. We wait for death to be swallowed in victory. We long to be welcomed home.

It’s why we exult when the unknown guy comes off the bench to save the day. It’s why it was weirdly wonderful that Bill Murray, the Cinderella boy himself, watched last night from the front row.

In high school basketball, I once got my own ultimate slam: a walk-off dunk. We were soundly defeating a bad team and, as a benchwarmer, I was in the game for the last several minutes. Garbage time, they call it. With five seconds left, my team held a 97-69 lead. For some reason Rick Tinsley, one of our guards, passed me the ball, and it was like the Red Sea parted. I saw a lane so clear and wide, I could have driven a tractor to the basket.

One dribble and then a two-handed dunk. I almost missed it, bumping the ball against the front of the rim before stuffing it home. Then, bedlam. The crowd went wild as the buzzer sounded. I jumped around like David Bote did last night between third base and home plate. My teammates mobbed me. Guys from the other team congratulated me. At age 17, I had reached the pinnacle of my basketball career. I’d dunked plenty of times in practice, but this would be the only time in my life I’d ever do it in a game.

It’s been almost 40 years. That moment in no way defined my life or even my high-school life. I really haven’t thought much about it … until last night. Every detail came flooding back and I realized that it, too, was a tiny glimpse of glory.

Rather than dismiss those thoughts as childish or unspiritual, I think it’s good to entertain them for a bit. To recognize the hope hiding behind them. I used to joke that one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would arrive wearing a Cubs cap. Now, every time the Cubs fly that silly “W” flag, my mind goes instead to that hope for an eternal celebration.

“May he grant your heart’s desires
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers.”
— Psalm 20:4-5

Posted in Faith, Story | Tagged , ,

The Write Stuff

rightstuffTom Wolfe died in May. Since then, I’ve been saving a podcast of NPR’s Fresh Air, featuring archived interviews with this major architect of the New Journalism. Today, three months later, I finally gave a listen. The 20-minute segment is packed with great advice for writers. A quick, adapted summary:

When you’re stuck, write as if you’re simply telling a friend. Free yourself from imaginary constraints, formats and word counts and just let your brain access the story. If you’ve done the reporting, it’s there.

A related cure for writer’s block is forcing myself to write a first draft without my notes. My brain does a better job of constructing the story in logical order than does my notebook. Again, think of quickly telling the story to a friend.

Thorough reporting is the best inoculation against purple prose — laying it on much too thick with flowery sentences that obscure the meaning. When you record real scenes and detail while on the scene and during interviews, you don’t have to make anything up. Bonus: From this article, here’s a hall-of-fame example of purple prose …

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city, their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist breath through manhole covers stamped “Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N. J.”

On some assignments you will never fit into your surroundings. Wolfe mentions a story he reported about North Carolina stock car racing. He dressed to fit in, only to realize he’d badly miscalculated. Now he stood out even more.

I have reported from villages in Asia where I was the only non-Asian within 100 miles. And at 6-6, I also was a foot taller than everyone else. There would be no blending in, and that’s OK. Better to be the very obvious outsider and get a free pass to ask “dumb” questions.

There’s so much more for writers in this NPR podcast of the interviews with Wolfe. Give it a listen.

Posted in Reporting, Writing | Tagged , ,

Jonah’s blind side might be ours, too 

In a forthcoming book called The God Impulse: The Power of Mercy in an Unmerciful World, author Jack Alexander unpacks a startling statistic from Barna Research: “Only 17 percent of American Christians believe that mercy is their personal responsibility, while the remaining 83 percent indicate it is the responsibility of churches, nonprofits and the government.”

That’s American Christians, not just Americans. The full research won’t be released until spring 2019. I’ll be interested to see how the question was phrased and what distinction is drawn between the Church and individual Christians, who in fact comprise the Church. But yikes.

Alexander writes: “Our distinctive as Christians is to extend love and mercy to those around us, even when they believe and look different than we do. We cannot claim to advocate for God’s justice if our relationship doesn’t include both truth and mercy.”

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God
—Micah 6:8 (NIV)

My pastors have just begun a series on the Old Testament book of Jonah. Everyone remembers the giant fish story, but there’s a lot more to this short book tucked between Obadiah and Micah. Jonah was a prophet, but he was also a jerk. He opposed the idea of God’s grace and, in fact did everything he could to prevent it from happening for his arch enemies, the people of Ninevah. Finally, after the fish incident, he goes to Ninevah and relays the word of God. The whole city listens and turns from its evil ways.

And Jonah’s response as a prophet of God is … well, he’s ticked off.

“Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
— Jonah 4:1-3

Jonah displays intense pride, nationalism, hatred and indifference to the spiritual condition of others. He knows God is merciful but he doesn’t like it, preferring to see judgment — even on himself.

That’s quite a warped view of God. One Christian critique of Islam is that it focuses on God’s judgment but leaves no room for grace and mercy. If the Barna stats are to be believed (and their track record says yes), then we as a Church first need to look at our own attitudes about that. Apparently they are pretty warped, too.

Here’s where that 17 percent needs to be seen and heard. Mercy appeals to our better selves. Rather than be drawn into blame-storming and endless political arguments that are dividing the Church, we can have greater eternal impact just by seeking opportunities to show mercy and supporting others who do. Mercy is contagious, especially for people who love God.

Here also is where we as communicators of God’s stories are so needed. Mission work is all about mercy, whether it’s extended to war refugees half a world away or homeless and hurting people in our own communities. When we report those stories well, we glorify God by displaying examples of his grace and mercy. We help build a more complete view of God for a safe and comfortable Church that, left unchallenged, could look more like Jonah every day.

 

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Report globally and help the Church engage

A video segment from Jimmy Kimmel Live! is getting big social media play this week.

People interviewed on the street could not identify a single country on a world map. Not even their own. It couldn’t possibly be this bad. Could it?

Things do tend to look at least a little better inside most churches. Some semblance of a worldview and a sense of global mission keep a map in front of us and swim against the nationalistic tide. There is no person on earth whom God doesn’t love infinitely. We do well to remind ourselves and others of that.

Even so, it’s easy to write off much of the world. To assume from the safety and comfort of America that Christianity has vacated the Middle East … that India is beyond hope … that Africa — that’s a continent, not a country — consists mostly of mud huts and tribal wars. That Papua New Guinea … wait, that’s a place?

Almost anywhere you can go in the world, God is working — especially so in the unlikeliest of places. In 2014 I had the privilege of visiting Egypt, just after its second revolution in three years. I saw an alive, active Church where denominational lines had blurred as a prayer movement cried out for that nation. I saw thousands of Egyptian Christians gather for prayer and worship, and I heard stories of God working miraculously. You can read and watch some of those stories here.

National prayer event in Egypt, 2014. Photo: Jim Killam

 

In an American chapter where nationalism seems to be winning the day, it’s worth reminding the Church that our focus must stay global. Good journalism can do that, by introducing audiences to people they’ll never meet but who represent an expression of Christ’s Church in a completely different context.

In Run with the Horses, author and Bible translator Eugene Peterson examines the globalistic viewpoint of an Old Testament prophet who barely left Jerusalem during his life. Jeremiah wrote separate messages to 10 different nations representing 750,000 square miles. His messages, Peterson writes, show “that he cared enough about the 10 nations to acquire thorough and detailed knowledge about them. … All of these oracles show an extraordinary knowledge of the geography, the history and the politics of these nations. He was not interested in them in general but in particular. He bothered to find out the details of their lives. He spoke God’s word in relation to the actual conditions of their existence. … The nations were not lumped together as ‘pagans’ or ‘lost sinners’ and the assaulted with stereotyped formulas.”

Ouch.

The best way to present a God’s-eye view of the world is simply to show people’s stories. Lots of stories, from lots of places. Leverage the greatest communication tools mankind has ever known for the glory of God. Tell about common struggles, common experiences and a common love for God. Help people understand and get comfortable with cultural differences. In short: Engage and connect the global Church.

It’s worth noting that Run with the Horses was first published in 1983, a generation before social media and its echo-chamber culture. Peterson writes:

“The larger the world we live in, the larger our lives develop in response. … We cannot be whole human beings if we cut ourselves off from the environment which God created and in which he is working. People of faith live in a far larger reality than people without faith. ‘God so loved the world.’

“We often betray this reality. We huddle and retreat. We ignore and even despise outsiders. We collect a few friends who look alike and think alike. We reject any suggestion that we transcend biological comforts and psychological securities. We barricade ourselves from visions that expose our prejudices, from people that challenge our narcissism.”

May journalists, communicators and anyone else who works in ministry strive to reveal the works of God among his people everywhere. This isn’t such a small world after all.

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