EL PASO, DAYTON, & GILROY

EL PASO, DAYTON, & GILROY

Editor’s Note: The most shocking thing about the three mass murders that happened last week is that they are no longer shocking. Heart-breaking, yes, but not shocking. Of the comments and opinions I’ve read on these events, John Stonestreet’s, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, were the most coherent. I’m reprinting them here for your edification. Links to the podcast, the response by Marvin Olasky, of World News Group, and an article I wrote on the topic last year follow. DS

El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy

The Heart of the Matter

John Stonestreet, Breakpoint, August 6, 2019

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.”

Of course, there are evil people. We know that far too well, especially after this past weekend. In fact, that there are evil people out there is the one thing, maybe the only thing, everyone still agrees on. We disagree on who the people are: The evil shooter. The evil racist president. The evil progressives who want to take our guns. So we go on and on, identifying who the evil people are—always them—and we go on and on missing the real problem right in front of our face.

Solzhenitsyn’s point wasn’t, as some argue, that people aren’t really evil. Far from it. His point was that to assume evil exists only in them (whoever our “them” is) and not in us, is just plain wrong. Rather, as he continued: “… the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

The finger pointing that immediately followed the mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton started before any facts were known, and came even quicker than usual. (Let’s pause there… “than usual.” What a tragic way to talk about mass murders.) The finger pointers had already decided who the bad guys were, and many of us joined in on the chorus. So, we tweeted and reported and assumed the evil ones belonged to the other side while hoping they did not belong to ours. If it’s discovered the evildoer does belong to us, we know how to twist and contort and accuse in order to explain any connection away. But, if he belongs to them, we also know how to leverage the tragedy to indict the entire lot.

I say this as a 2nd Amendment guy. I fully agree that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Read the online manifestos of these young men and tell me that they wouldn’t eventually find some other way to carry out their violent fantasies. Even if gun control were the answer, how would we ever go about implementing it? Does anyone really think someone so radicalized to that degree of hatred would trade in their weapons for a gift card?

At the same time, the idea that “the best way to stop bad guys with guns is with good guys with guns” needs to be reconsidered. At face value, I fully agree. What I fear, however, is that those who repeat this idea are working off of old math. When bad guys are willing to target innocents, even children, at schools, movie theaters, churches, festivals, and Wal-Marts… what then? In Dayton, the good guys showed up in one minute, one minute, and the bad guy still killed nine people. Facing that sort of evil, how many good guys with guns will we need to protect us? Where exactly will we need them? Everywhere? That’s called a “police state,” and it’s the inevitable end of any society that sinks so deeply into moral chaos.

If that is our fate, make no mistake, we’ll have brought it on ourselves. And by “we,” I mean us and them. As the progressive left finds new ways to deconstruct the family, reconstruct morality, and scandalize the innocence of children at every level and in every area of culture while demonizing their evil other by state force and financial leveraging, the libertarian right demands unfettered license to say whatever and think whatever and post whatever on 8chan while demonizing its own evil other as the cause for all so-called ills.  All this while the church faces scandal after scandal of its own making.

Yet, we wonder how lonely young men without meaning or moral formation or fathers, who have no way to fulfill their pornographic-fueled fantasies but have access to plenty of self-medication options, could be driven to white-supremacist or progressive extremism.  We need to ask what it is about our culture that’s producing these young men bent on killing and chaos. And we need to ask: Where is the church?

Do we really think we are immune to the historically repetitive realities that have marked every crumbling civilization since the dawn of time? Do we really think we can keep our freedom in a society not only without virtue, but without any of the “little platoons” that form virtue?

Can freedom be sustained where virtue is not flourishing? Chuck Colson asked this every time he spoke the last few years of his life. The answer to Chuck’s question is still, of course, no.

As Chuck said, it’s either the conscience or the constable. Unless we are willing to look at us, to as Solzhenitsyn said, “destroy a piece of our own heart,” our future is increasingly obvious.

Only Christ can restore this mess. We must be about His work of restoration.

Breakpoint Podcast; Marvin Olasky, World News Group Editor in Chief; Is Your Son the Next School Shooter?

 

FAKE NEWS, SPIN, & HONEST JOURNALISM

FAKE NEWS, SPIN, & HONEST JOURNALISM

The Headlines Scream:

“JOY BEHAR FIRED FROM THE VIEW,” but she wasn’t.

“MICHELLE BACHMAN SAYS JESUS CREATED ASSAULT RIFLES,” but she didn’t.

And my all-time favorite: ANGRY COW KNOCKS HELICOPTER FROM SKY: Udder Destruction! Which never happened but is still hilarious.

The BBC defines fake news as:

  • Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform.
  • Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive – or old photographs shared as new.
  • Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people.[1]

Fake news used to be limited to the grocery store checkout line, but the web gave it legs and Twitter gave it wings. Now it’s everywhere all the time.

Fake news is easy to spot, spin not so much. Spin isn’t completely false information manipulated to deceive. It is editorial selection of facts based on undeclared presuppositions along with the imposition of a particular point of view designed to bring about specific conclusions by the viewer or reader. The same reader or viewer might arrive at different conclusions were all the facts delivered—or spun—in a different way. In other words, spin is not fair or balanced.

To spot spin we need to know some things about message crafting in general and journalism in particular.

Every reporter, indeed every message maker from the shortest Twitterer to the longest documentary film-maker makes editorial choices. The choices are limited by time and space and are guided by the story’s theme, as chosen by the writer, and the production’s priorities, specified by the editor or producer. That’s where spin begins, and all communication has some.

Every writer has a purpose which guides the selection of material including, for example the Apostle John who, as an evangelist, chose the stories most likely to convince any reader that Jesus is the Christ.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples,” he wrote, “which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” [2]

But John and the rest of the Bible’s writers knew that God would hold them accountable to tell the truth.[3] Many publishers, producers, and editors today forget that, or never believed it in the first place. “Too much of the media acts like a special interest group,” said Michael Goodwin, chief political columnist for the New York Post. “It exists to promote its own interest and the political party with which it is aligned.”

Goodwin began his career as a clerk at the New York Times under legendary editor Abe Rosenthal whose commitment to fairness made the Times the flagship of American journalism. No more, says Goodwin. “Standards are like laws in the sense that they are designed to guide your behavior in good times and in bad. Consistent adherence to them was the source of the Times’ credibility. And eliminating them has made the paper less than ordinary. It’s only standards now are double standards.”[4]

Savvy news consumers winnow the facts from the spin and discern which facts have been deselected. Watch for concrete detail, specific examples, and definitive quotes. Ignore generalities and nonspecific adjectives or adverbs.[5]

True, total objectivity is impossible for fallen creatures. All of us are prejudiced. Ethical journalists reporting from a secular worldview usually attempt fairness by quoting person “A” on the left and person “B” on the right. But “conventional objectivity,” as Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of World News Group writes, “balances subjective views that may be ungodly.”

Biblical worldview journalism takes “the God’s-eye view”.  Its editorial priorities and conclusions are guided by Scripture. Of course, Scripture doesn’t address everything, so Olasky and company devised a six-tiered system—called rapids, after whitewater rafting’s classification system—by which they set their priorities and draw their conclusions. The lower the number the more certainty about God’s take on an issue. The higher the number—the more difficult rapid—the less likely World is to take a hard and fast stand. Either way, World reports all the facts, or at least all that they can access prior to press time, under the standard of biblical objectivity.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,” says Olasky, “but the streets declare the sinfulness of man. Biblical journalism emphasizes God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness.”[6]

When it comes to journalism, that’s the real thing.

[1]http://www.bbc.com/news/world-42487425

[2] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Jn 20:30–31). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] See: Acts 24:13; Romans 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 John 1:3 etc.

[4] Michael Goodwin, The 2016 Election and the Demise of Journalistic Standards, Imprimis, May / June 2017.

[5] Marvin Olasky, Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism, p. 33. Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1996.

[6] World Journalism Institute’s World Policy Book & Writer’s Guide p. 7

Can We Hear Them Now?

Can We Hear Them Now?

Facebook, 2018: A young father shared the moment he felt his daughter in her mother’s womb.

“I’d only briefly felt this baby move before. I tried to feel her move again and again to no avail. But finally, lying there last night next to her mom, snuggled up close because of the cold, I felt kick after kick. Long after my lady had gone to sleep, there was our little one still kicking away. There ain’t words to truly describe what my heart felt.”

I read that post and smiled, remembering what it was like to be a young father many years ago, when before my daughters had voices they spoke to us with kicks.

Another story I saw this week took me back even further, to the moment the world stopped hearing the voiceless words of children in the womb.

Dr. Richard Selzer, an enlightened surgeon, fully committed to the latest medical philosophies, and desiring to learn the best techniques, wanted to watch a new procedure. He’d heard of it, but never seen one performed so he asked a fellow physician if he could attend.

The patient was 19 weeks pregnant, lying on the table, prepped for the procedure. The surgeon took a syringe filled with a prostaglandin solution, sank the needle up to its hub into the woman’s belly, pushed the plunger down and left it there for a few moments.

Selzer described what happened next. ““I see something other than what I expected here. … It is the hub of the needle in the woman’s belly that has jerked. … Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish.”

Slowly, the desperate fight for life faded. The needle stopped jerking. The voiceless screaming ceased, but not in Selzer’s head. “Nothing can argue against the truth of what I saw that day.”

That story, “What I Saw at the Abortion,” originally appeared in Esquire in January 1976, and appeared most recently in Marvin Olasky’s World Magazine interview with pro-life feminist Frederica Matthews-Green.*

The trajectory of Green’s life was changed by that brief paragraph in Esquire. Up until then she sported a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t labor under a misconception. Legalize abortion.” Now she is known by her most famous quote: “No woman wants an abortion like she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion like an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Would that the trajectory of the world had changed with her.

Ideas have consequences and, as John Stonestreet says, they also have victims. The two greatest victims of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s were women, who lost the protection long afforded to them by traditional mores and the covenant of marriage, and children, who lost the protection not only of a two-parent home, but of the womb. Both suffer in abortion. Both need our help.

The women were voiceless until 2017, stifled by fear, or powerful men, or both. Now they are speaking and the nation is listening. Maybe in the context of so much truth-telling those other heretofore voiceless victims will also speak.

Can we hear them now?

*Marvin Olasky, “Path to Pro-Life: Overcoming Pro-Abortion Peer Pressure with Facts.” Interview with Frederica Matthews-Green by Marvin Olasky in World Magazine, January 20, 2018. https://world.wng.org/2018/01/path_to_pro_life