Making Sense of Media
A government critic once called TV “a vast wasteland.” So how do we navigate it with our worldview intact? The linguist and liberal social critic Noam Chomsky once said, “Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.” Chomsky was onto something. I think it’s fair to say that most of the media are obediently working 24/7 to undermine our faith. If you listen to BreakPoint regularly, I know you care about developing a Christian worldview, and that’s terrific. Bible reading, church attendance, prayer, reading good books, and taking advantage of the kinds of resources that the Colson Center provides are indispensable in your developing a mature Christian worldview. But you are also no doubt aware of the many other powerful voices in the media that seek to prevent you from developing a Christian worldview. Some of these voices are obvious. News outlets with an obvious anti-Christian bias are easy to identify. But what about the hidden biases that creep into news coverage? For example, the next time there’s a natural disaster, watch how the media report how the government is responding, but not so much about how the church is responding, even though Christians are often first on the scene. The book “Prodigal Press,” by WORLD Magazine’s Marvin Olasky and my Colson Center colleague Warren Smith, calls this habit of ignoring the church “spiking the spiritual.” The expression comes from the practice of editors killing or “spiking” a story they decide not to print or air. Today, “spiking the spiritual” has the effect of downplaying the vital social contributions that Christians make. For example, as Christianity Today has reported, the average North American congregation provides its community with about $184,000 worth of social services every year. And churches sponsor more than 1.6 million social service programs in America annually, with 7.6 million volunteers. You’ll never hear such facts in the mainstream press. Which leads to skewed media coverage, and unfair and inaccurate perceptions of Christians. Perhaps that’s why 70 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans think churches and other religious institutions are “too concerned with money and power,” and 67 percent believe they are “too involved with politics.” Only 45 percent, meanwhile, say we “do anything to help solve social problems.” Unbelievable! But it’s not just the journalistic media who shape our worldview. Seventeenth-century Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher is credited with saying, “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.” Storytelling—in songs, paintings, films, and books—is perhaps the most important way we learn about our world. Indeed. Jesus certainly understood this. Mark 4:34 says, “Jesus did not speak to them except in parables.” So what do leading Christian journalists and artists have to tell us about the state of the media today? Well now’s your chance to find out, by signing up for our Colson Center short course called “Making Sense of Media: Clarity and Discernment.” This four-week webinar series starts on Tuesday, April 17 and continues the next three Tuesdays. You can sign up by going to BreakPoint.org. The first week we’ll hear from my friend Marvin Olasky, the editor-in-chief of WORLD Magazine on the “Prodigal Press: The anti-Christian Bias of the American Media.” Then comes social historian Dr. Ken Boa on how to “read” and interpret films. Dr. Kathy Koch, author of the important book Teens and Screens, will address the topic of “social media—good or bad?” And we conclude with children’s book author S. D. “Sam” Smith on a topic I love, “Telling, reading, and sharing great stories.” So if you ever watch a TV program, see a movie, get online, or listen to a song, this short course is for you. Come to BreakPoint.org to sign up today!