Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)
Picture - me with my favorite nephew named Jared and my favorite niece named Sarah.
This morning I've been thinking about credibility in writing - and most specifically in the way stories are told via the news media.
Several years ago I made a conscious decision to adopt Philippians 4:8 as my "writing mantra". I write with the intention of "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things..." as an overarching theme.
"But what if the world and the situation you're dealing with really is an honest-to-goodness maelstrom of vile putrescence?" You may ask (And I'm sure you would use words like maelstrom and putrescence).
Well that's a fair question, but we should also consider this. Isn't there a sense in which the life we experience tends to conform to our preconceptions and our general philosophy? Aren't negative expectations and interpretations routinely met simply because that's the kind of energy we bring to the table? Isn't it true to say that our interpretation of events and of people is a form of direct leadership?
Belief is a powerful tool. As is unbelief. When the stories we tell and the stories we listen to become predominantly negative, then we have made conclusions - pre-conclusions - that contribute to the critical mass that makes a dark status quo so hard to move beyond.
Fact is, it's not so much the media that's the message as it is that the personal filter of the story-teller becomes the message. Truth is too often sacrificed in favor of "playing to the audience". Think for a minute about the way Christianity is often slanted. The dark joke is this: If you want your church to make the news you have to hope your pastor gets caught in some indiscretion!
However, for every religious leader caught in embezzlement, adultery, manipulation or child pornography, there are literally hundreds of good men and women building up families and living Christ-directed lives that rock the world for good. But who do we hear about on radio and television, or read about on-line and in the paper?
Fabrication: Then, if there's not enough negative news available, some commentators simply make stuff up! There's a huge controversy raging today over a racially charged "story" that was inaccurate and patently untrue. But the negative spin went viral because of our chronic addiction to bad news and the tendency of people to pass on anything that supports their own prejudices. Truth too readily becomes less important than the advancement of political agenda and our own prejudicial point of view.
But there's a huge cost when we go down this road. The stories we tell and then retell become the fabric of common consciousness. When we don't tell the whole truth then we're really not telling the truth at all.
That's why I have interviewed well over 300 local spiritual leaders and share their witness via the Tampa Tribune. That's why I tell stories about countless people doing good, and quietly living eloquent lives of transformational faith.
I don't do this because I want goodness to be true. I do this because I know that it is. There is so much in this world that is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise.
"Think about these things." I mean it, really... THINK about these things.
In love and in truth - DEREK