Eight Dimensions of Truth & Journalism
In the postmodern era when truth is a matter of perception – and often in politics, especially – standards and values of journalism are constantly reshaped and cut down to size to reflect the contemporary realities as the media gatekeepers see them — or would like to see them. And in the name of “tolerance,” traditional standards are dumbed down and “deselected.”
"Let’s keep religion private," the argument goes. "And let's especially keep the Christian perspective on current issues private". The postmodern world says, “Don’t talk about abortion in church–it’s a political issue. Don’t talk about abortion in politics–it’s a religious issue.” “But,” says Margaret Talbot in the New Republic, “a functional democracy depends upon people who are willing to think rigorously, articulate their position, and carry on a dialogue with those who have opposing views. Many complex problems defy easy answers. “To simply be nonjudgmental is tantamount to surrendering reason when facing difficult issues,” Talbot concluded.
As Christians who are journalists, we say that a commitment to truth means telling “the whole truth, so help us, God.” Rigor is required to do this, as well as paying to content, context, balance and clear communication. But can Christians who are journalists really tell the whole truth? Readers complain that we are too selective, that we focus on only the titillating parts and ignore the “larger” story.
Of course we have to be selective in what we write and what we leave out. Anything less than a full-length book simply does not provide enough space to tell everything. Even then, referring to the Bible, the final chapter of John’s Gospel (21:25) tells us that “There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they should be written every one , even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
But Christians who are journalists must beware dumbing down. Choose carefully what you write and what you leave out. Clarify the complex. Communicate clearly, with context and balance. And speak the truth–in love.
The final plank in our platform exploring the state of truth and journalism is distrust. The postmodern world distrusts religious people – especially conservatives, who of course tend to distrust postmodernism. And because of this implicit distrust, stories that are worthy of coverage–and are based on solid events and facts–are missed or dismissed.
Truth can be passed over because it is too nuanced for “dumbed-down” stories. It can be denied out of prejudice and malevolent intent. And it can be missed out of the sheer inability to see or perceive it.
I believe this latter point describes the edge a Christian who is a journalist has over the reporter who does not have the eye of spiritual discernment and therefore does not see what in the world God is doing. There is the Truth (with a Capital “T”) that can be seen by those who have the eyes of faith to perceive it. My firm trust in writing the truth is based upon my conviction that God is sovereign.
I assert that the Gospel can stand scrutiny, and withstand the double standards, the deception, the doctoring, the dealing, the dumbing down and the distrust that a postmodern culture hurls at it. We can expect no less of the journalists who claim to represent that Gospel.