Essay / Culture

Speaking Evangelistically

Get a group of pastors into a room and a strange thing happens. They begin to tell a story and the size of the congregation begins to grow. As people nod more and more, the story gets better as the sermon grows ever more anointed and the response larger. Soon instead of fifty people coming to faith throngs came streaming down the aisle to pray. Without care, throngs becomes a number and five hundred are praying with the pastor. The little Baptist church in which he was speaking, one aisle wide, has grown to dwarf Saddleback in size. He has lied without ever knowing it by allowing a story to get away from him and telling folk he liked what they wanted to hear.Academics are just as bad. Put them in a room together and the stories start to flow. The telling remark made to the opposition becomes so insightful that C.S. Lewis would have been proud to say it. Every academic becomes Samuel Johnson in his own story. His foes become brilliant, but wrong headed fools.I am sure the same thing happens with journalists. Get a group of journalists in a room and things start changing. They begin to tell the group what they want to hear. What does a room full of journalists want to hear? What kind of speaking evangelistically goes on with them?Hugh Hewitt points us to the strange case of Eason Jordan. Hewitt reports:

Here is the key quote from a first-person account of Jordan’s remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.”

Everyone interested in ethics must work hard to avoid this in his or her life. Nobody is perfect, but it is interesting to note what they lie about. Pastors lie about helping more people. Academics lie about the life of the mind. Journalists lie about America.Let’s assume that Jordan said it. Let’s also assume that our brave troops are not killing journalists. Why? We know our boys in harms way. Nothing could convince me that lads like Jon Dyke and Colin Anderson, classically educated patriots, would kill journalists. I know those men and through them the men with which they serve. Every unit, I assume, has men like them. Dyke and Anderson have read Aristotle and Christ. There is no way that such an army as Mr. Jordan describes could keep them. They would shout the evil from the housetops. Jordan assumes that the troops are the faceless fighters of some Lucas movie dying blindly from orders given. They are not. Every unit has a mix of many type of persons, including men with more education and culture than Mr. Jordan. We know US troops are not killing journalists in a large scale way in many places and at many times, because we know our friends in the army.My guess is that an anti-war journalist speaking in public mostly ends up in a room of friendly folk. The temptation is to get more and more colorful until finally he tells falsehoods. He did not mean to lie, in fact he did not even feel the lie coming. It just slips out from being in a room with only nodding heads. He has made the story better, the congregation larger, and the witty remark wittier. In the case of Jordan, he ends up making his US troop behavior worse until finally he is saying monstrous things.And everyone will cover for him, because they understand that they might someday do the same thing. He did not mean to lie, but said what people say in private in public in a fit of fervor. Polite folk look away when the demand for rigor comes up after someone speaks evangelistically. However, a cover up is impossible in the world of blogs.What does it tell us about our media if a room of them encourage lies about the US military? It does not encourage jingoistic boasting, because the folk in the room would smell out such bombast. In the end, it allows for wicked lies such as those told by Mr. Jordan.But Hewitt’s book is right, there is a new world out there. When I blog, I know critics will read it. I am not just writing to a small world of fellow believers. At the very least this discourages speaking evangelistically. It has its own pitfalls, including a limit on how much one can write and expect to be read and the difficulty of placing arguments in a blog. However, for “news” it is a better world with the blogosphere a bigger and more diverse group of people.The legacy media has become sterile and in grown. It lacks new ideas and new voices on both the left and the right (not to mention the middle). Freedom, and blogging is just a growth of freedom, is a mixed blessing surely. But it is fundamentally a blessing and those who want to oppose it, however they try, will never win. They may pick on the downside of the blessing, but people like good things.Tell the truth CNN. Release all the material and if your reporter was guilty of telling lies in an ingrown atmosphere consider shaking up that atmosphere. How different most newsrooms would be if one “out” evangelical sat at every table!

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