Thursday, December 23, 2010

And in other news ...

I got a call this afternoon from Kristin Nelson at WGHP FOX 8 asking for a comment about the threat of snow this weekend and how that might affect our plans for Sunday service, and what canceling a service means for a church's offerings. I thought it was a great question, and I responded by saying that our members' well-being is more important than the offerings, and we simply trust God to provide for what our church needs, even if we have to miss a Sunday from time to time. She asked if she could come by and do an interview on camera with me, and I agreed. She and the videographer with her were very pleasant and we had a nice chat in the sanctuary about these and other questions.

I reiterated in the interview much of what I had said over the phone. The point I wanted to make clear in the piece was that God controls the weather, and He is the one we trust to provide for us. Therefore, if the weather causes us to close for a Sunday, we don't believe that we will suffer financially for that. I hope that is what came across when the story aired. But I am not sure it does.

The frustration I have had with journalists over the years, and the reason why I usually don't grant interviews or return phone calls, is that the final product is in the hands of an editor. Like some preachers who take the Bible out of context to prop up a point that they want to make, so some journalists will cut and paste and splice a conversation to support the premise that they went into the story to advance. While this was one of my more enjoyable media encounters, there were a couple of misrepresented statements made by the reporter in the piece that aired. For starters, I never said that I was praying for little or no precipitation. I am not going to put God' response or lack thereof to my prayers on the hook for what does or doesn't fall from the sky. Personally, I love snow, and I love the idea of a white Christmas, but I confess that I do not look forward to having to make a weather decision for Sunday. Moreover, her voiceover in the piece in which she says, "...otherwise they'll have to cancel Sunday services and miss out on donations," reflects nothing of what was said in our interview. My point was precisely the opposite ... we don't mind canceling the service for the sake of the safety of our members, BECAUSE we trust God to provide.

I want to think the best of the intentions of those who put this story together, and not read anything into their motives, it does seem that there was a desire going into this story to paint a picture of a church that needs its people's money so desperately that the threat of bad weather instills panic in our hearts as we head toward the weekend. Where my statements failed to support that thesis, a voiceover had to suffice.

My desire here is not to begrudge or belittle hardworking journalists trying to put together a quality piece of news reporting. But I am disappointed in the finished product, particularly how it was edited to convey the exact opposite sentiment of what I said. If you are in journalism, please don't do this. Don't edit and voiceover in an editorialized way. But I am also reminded of the tendency that we all have to spin things the way we want them to be. I am certainly guilty of doing this from time to time as well I suppose.

Most of all, I am also reminded of the tendency that some have to do this with the Bible. When what it says doesn't correspond to the preconceived notion in our own minds, we may feel tempted to spin it, read something into it, insert a speculation or an opinion, omit certain key thoughts and words, so that we come away from it feeling like our presupposition has been validated. As frustrated as I am when this happens to me in the paper or on TV, I must think of the disappointment God must feel when we do the same to His word. If our opinions are not confirmed by the facts, our opinions need adjusting, but we mustn't spin the facts.

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