I'm still trying to catch up from vacation and one of the things I haven't done is address some of the comments that were left on the blog. Jeff Price from "Now I don't want to get off on a rant here . . ." left a comment on my blog and Pruitt Communications asking why we were doing all of the posting we were doing about Christians and politics. I'll try to answer that with a post later in the week. For today I want to address a comment from William Meisheid of Beyond the Rim. On a prior post I had made a reference to "Chesterton's Advice to Christian Bloggers," and he had asked me what this advice was. He may not have been reading my blog when I did the post and there may be a few others who weren't so I thought that, for today I would go ahead and re-post the entire column. So, enjoy . . .
This month's Gilbert Magazine has a good little short piece called "Bad Christian Journalism and the G. K. Chesterton Remedy," by J. Fraser Field. Field starts with an example of what he considers "Bad Christian Journalism."
Will Christmas be pushed into the catacombs? A new round of animosity toward Christians is further proof that the political correctness police are busily at work. Furthermore, we are witnessing the re-paganization of Christmas . . . A secular elite, fueld by hostility to historic Christianity, now insists that America surrender Christmas as a public celebration.Field considers this "bad Christian journalism" for several reasons.
"A Christian journalists's duty is to inform, edify and even entertain; but even more important, it is to reveal to his reader the face of Christ."
"In purerly practical terms the Christian journalist should never make the mistake of undermining his credibility by overstating his case with exaggerated generalizations that don't follow from the evidence. Let understatement trump overstatement."
"At the very least, don't come across as frustrated and never rant."
Here are three principles of writing that Field gleans from Chesterton.
First, his writing - no matter how serious the subject matter - was always suffused with Christian joy and hope.So, here's my analysis of why Field believes the "bad Christian journalist" failed.
Second, a detached playfulness always marked his writing and he was always personal, never taking himself too seriously.
Third, although Chesterton was not averse to a little good-hearted ridicule, the emphasis was always on "good-hearted"; he was never vindictive.
And most important, within his own style and personality, Chesterton's writing comes from a place of such child-like innocence that it always manages to be a beautiful reflection and reminder of the Lord's own voice.
The "bad Christian journalist" writes from a worried, panicked, mindset. To him, the sky is falling. Secondly, where is the "face of Christ" in this? There is no sense of "Christ the overcomer" in this, only "Christ-and-His-cause-are-about-to-be-defeated-and-we-better-do-something-now-or-we're-all- gonna-die, . . . aaaaahhhh!!!!" Third, this is a definite rant. Fourth, no joy and hope here, and this writer definitely isn't detached and playful - he's dreadfully serious.
I think Chesterton, or his interpreter, J. Fraser Field, is on to something here, but it also seems to me that there is a place for deadly serious writing from Christians. As to "ranting," well, Matthew 23 sounds alot like a rant to me, straight from the lips of Jesus. And how about the book of Galatians as a rant from the apostle Paul, especially when he says that he wishes the troublers would, . . . um . . . well, read the book and you'll see what he wished they would do to themselves.
On the other hand, with those caveats I think I mainly agree with Chesterton/Field here. The "bad Christian journalist" has a tone to his writing that is one of weakness and victimization. A sense of victimization is pervasive in Christendom today. And the truth is we are victims of the world's animosity, its just that, per I Peter 2, we're not supposed to act like victims. Hebrews 10:32-35 tells us how we are supposed to respond to victimization:
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Heb 10:32). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Whether we are victimized by politicos, the news media or the bully next door, we respond with joy and confidence. Hence, Chesterton's "detached playfulness." Maybe if we take our opponents a little less seriously, they'll take themselves a little less seriously.
I'm not a good example on this. When I get worked up about something I do react like the sky is falling and often take myself way too seriously. But, I think I'll start trying to follow Chesterton's example in this and see what happens.