Religion news coverage has undoubtedly increased in the secular media in the past decades. Not surprisingly, this coverage has reflected a secular view on Christian events, often speaking a voice opposite of what faith-oriented leaders would have.
So, what can Christians do in light of such developments? According to two Southern Baptist commentators with media roots, Christians must stop “curing the darkness” and instead take “a more pro-active stance” in speaking their views.
“For too long, Christians have cursed the darkness,” said former television reporter Lawrence Smith. “It is time we began lighting candles. We must view the media as we would any ‘unreached people group.’”
Smith, who is now the vice president for communications at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky, said Christians must be more intentional about taking the Gospel into the newsroom. Christians need to pray for reporters and encourage other faithful to enter the field of journalism.
Smith’s comments followed a year-long study of TV religion stories by the Media Research Center – a conservative media watchdog group. According to the study, which looked back at stories that dates to Feb. 29, there was a doubling of faith-based news covered in the media compared to 10 years ago, but this coverage usually holds a very skeptical tone.
“Even when the amount of religion news increases, the media’s tone remains cold, questioning, even hostile,” said Tim Graham, MRC’s director of media analysis. “The more traditional or orthodox the religious belief, and the more influential it threatens to become in the culture at large, the more the television networks seem to explain it away, as something ‘scholars’ and ‘experts’ dismiss.”
According to Graham, the ‘faith-based’ views covered in the media are normally those of liberal scholars who question Biblical inerrancy. Additionally, the reporters often approach religious issues from a secular and political viewpoint.
One example the MRC stated was the stories covered in the case of the openly homosexual Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson. This event was viewed in a ‘cultural’ or ‘political’ angle, rather than one based on faith.
“On CBS’ ‘The Early Show’ ... reporter Gretchen Carlson declared: ‘It was a landmark moment as Gene Robinson was consecrated as the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop,” the report said.
The focus of the story, the report said, “was reserved for the gay protagonist and his worldview.”
However, another religious media watchdog group – the Religion Newswriters Association, said the MRC reports are ‘all wrong.’ According to RNA founder Debra Mason, “The real culprit in coverage problems of religion news is not an intentional liberal slant. Rather, it is ignorance from reporters unaware of the complex diversity of religious belief.”
In any case, the evangelical voice in the secular media definitely has room to grow. Therefore, what Christians can do is to offer their view to the media.
“(We can) ask that the playing field be level in news stories pertaining to any faith,” said Dwayne Hastings, editor of Faith & Family Magazine. “If you have a concern about a news story you read or view, communicate your concerns to that media outlet.
“It is a given that the national press focuses on the most sensational stories, which typically are not flattering to our faith. The real stories are Christians serving quietly and changing lives in Christ’s name. While reporters look for the chinks in Christians’ armor, we need to be diligent telling the story of what Christ did for mankind by every means God provides.”