''HOW CAN YOU BE A CHRISTIAN AND A JOURNALIST?''
CHICHESTER, ENGLAND A decade ago, I
began attending a monthly breakfast of Christian journalists in Washington
organized by David Aikman, then a TIME correspondent. One of our prayers was
for the freedom of Terry Anderson, AP Middle East correspondent, who was a
hostage in Lebanon for 6.5 years.
Recently I attended an extraordinary
gathering of 160 Christian journalists from 32 countries in Chichester,
England, also organized by David, where we had the privilege of hearing
Terry talk about his captivity. He recalled fellow hostage Rev. Benjamin
Weir saying, ''I don't understand how you can be a Christian and a
Has my profession fallen so far in
public esteem that a Christian journalist is an oxymoron? Apparently so. A
1995 Times Mirror Poll reports that 79 percent of Americans said the media
was no more ethical than the politicians they reported and 65 percent felt
the alleged character problems of President Clinton had been overdone by the
Terry had not been an active
Christian before his capture. In his first 24 days, he was blindfolded and
chained by wrists and ankles and not permitted to speak. Finally, he burst
forth: ''I am not an animal. I am a man, a human being. I can not take this
any more. I will go crazy.''
His captors asked, ''What do you
want?'' Terry replied, ''A Bible.'' They gave him one, but made him wear a
hood, so he could not see the guards as he read it, many, many times.
He told us, ''I can't explain to
you the comfort and strength that Bible gave me. Nor how demanding the book
was. Here I was chained by some semi-psychotic guard. It was hard to read,
`Forgive your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Pray for them.'
''Excuse me, I am a little busy
praying for me now,'' he said, sparking laughter.
''I was angry. I hated those men.
They did bad things to me. The Bible said I must forgive them. What does it
mean to forgive someone? I learned a few things. It is not something that
you do and it is over. It is a process. It is a journey. It is something you
do every day. I have gone back to Lebanon and interviewed the Hezbollah and
asked them about the kidnaping: ''Was it wrong? Are you sorry?'' Their reply
was that, `It was war.' It was not about me.
''My life is full of joy, and
theirs is still dark and angry. I want more for them. I do not hate them.
But I am only part way down the road. That circle you see on the back of my
head is a bald spot - not a halo!''
Upon reflection, he concludes,
''There is no inherent conflict of the journalistic ideal of the search for
truth, with the truth I know as a follower of Jesus. My Christianity makes
me a better journalist.''
Jennifer Arul, one of India's
best-known TV reporters, lives her Christian faith courageously amidst a
culture with quite different values. A Hindu bride's family is expected to
provide a dowry to the husband's family. One man's mother kept demanding
added dowry payments two years after the wedding, but her family could
afford to give no more. Result: The bride was raped by her brother-in-law
and then killed by him and by her mother-in-law. Such ''dowry murders''
usually go unpunished and unreported.
The killer stabbed himself,
claiming an intruder was to blame, and was in the hospital. Jennifer tried
to interview him, but he recognized her and pretended to be near death.
Jennifer went to his home. Relatives offered her tea. ''I was afraid they'd
poison it,'' she said, but prayed for the Lord's protection. After three
hours, relatives told the honest story. By reporting it, a public outcry
surfaced, resulting in the arrest and conviction of the killers.
Jack Kelley literally risks his
life by covering wars for ''USA Today.'' He's reported from 86 countries,
spent 8 months covering the Persian Gulf War. He married June 4 and ten days
later was in Bosnia. He told us, ''Journalism is a calling. Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John were four of the first journalists, designated by God.
''You can chose your profession,
and God can choose you. We have an extra responsibility to excel, to go the
extra mile because we are representing Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.''
A Czech reporter said the
conference was ''a great encouragement and a challenge to not forget my main
purpose is to please God and to be light on the earth.''
Want to join this journalistic
fellowship? Click on
http://www.gegrapha.org on the Web.
Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.