Many Christians today do not trust Christianity Today.
That’s my takeaway from the backlash of Christianity Today’s now infamous editorial calling for President Donald J. Trump’s removal from office.
CT opined that Trump is, among other things, “a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused” and “should be removed” from office.
For me, that’s like reporting water is “wet” or ice cream is “cold and tasty.”
Yet despite this not-earth-shattering news, CT has been widely reviled. Trump supporters treated the editorial as Democratic propaganda. Franklin Graham called it a “totally partisan attack.”
“Why,” Graham asked, would Christianity Today choose to take the side of the Democrat left whose only goal is to discredit and smear the name of a sitting president?”
“Not everyone who reports news is a journalist.”
The president himself smeared CT (or “ET,” as he called it) as “far left.”
Folks who call CT a far left magazine do not understand CT at all. I worry they may not understand the difference between “news,” “journalism” and “propaganda” either.
There’s an important difference between “journalism” and “news.” Not all “news” is “journalism.”
We have a lot of “news” options. Mass media saturation has ensured we are never far away from thousands of news organizations eager to tell us what’s going on in the world. All three major television networks report the news. So do PBS, CNN, Buzzfeed, HuffingtonPost, Mother Jones, Washington Post, Fox News, New York Times, NRATV and Twitter. I imagine most of our “news” comes from our Facebook feeds.
But even though we consume a lot of “news” from a lot of sources, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re consuming any journalism. Some news outlets publish no journalism at all.
Plus, not everyone who reports news is a journalist. They may call themselves journalists, work for a news channel and carry press credentials that allow them to report from the White House. But let’s be clear: if they report the news in the interest of a party, they are pundits, not journalists. If they report the news in the interest of a government, they are press secretaries. If they report the news in the interest of an organization, they are public relations spokespersons.
That’s not journalism. That’s propaganda.
But journalists – including Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli who wrote the CT editorial – have a higher purpose than serving the interests of a party or a state or an organization. Journalists serve the public.
The highest ambition of a journalist is not to puff up a party, tear down a government or smear a candidate. It’s to inform and edify readers and viewers so they can become better-informed citizens.
“When Christians stop trusting journalists, they start trusting propaganda.”
Journalists do not cover government corruption because they hate particular lawmakers. They do it because they believe the public needs to know how their elected officials are failing them.
Journalists do not report on unethical policing because they have an anti-cop agenda. They do it to hold the government accountable for how it protects and serves.
Journalists do not report on sex abuse in the church because they are hostile to Christianity. They do it to protect vulnerable people who look to the church for protection and care.
What a journalist does not do is deceive. Journalists empower the audience to protect themselves from deceit from parties, governments and organizations. Propagandists deceive the audience to serve the interests of their party, government or organization.
Journalism shares a lot of the same values as Christianity. They both privilege truth. They both are concerned with the interests of others. They both want to comfort the afflicted, speak for the oppressed, confront the corrupt and champion justice. They both elevate the other’s interests over their own. They believe their work can make a difference for the world.
Most people are not cut out to be journalists. It’s a calling. Journalism may even be a ministry.
CT certainly considers journalism as a ministry. We saw this in CT’s editorial. “Remember who you are and whom you serve,” CT warned its readers. Those readers are not called to serve a party. They do not serve a government. They serve the Lord.
Yet Trump-supporting readers responded not with remorse or repentance but with hostility. To them CT does not serve the faithful; the magazine is now “far left” at the very least, and at most perhaps “an enemy of the state.” They cast out CT’s journalism-as-ministry like a rogue king casts out a prophet.
Galli was pilloried not because he’s a journalist who serves his readers, but because he is NOT a pundit, press secretary or PR spokesperson who serves the president.
I hope CT doesn’t get discouraged. I hope it remains true to its mission, blessing its readers with trustworthy, fair journalism.
CT, please keep spreading the Good News.