Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Who controls the narrative. . .

In the months and weeks gone by we have seen political news, social commentary, and even what passes for religious reporting defined less by facts or truth than ideology.  While this is nothing new, the rarity of news that is given without commentary or slant is harder and harder to find and even more difficult to trust -- given the skepticism of our times.  The charge is laid against propaganda that masquerades as news and ideology that passes itself off as truth.  Where did we learn this?

There was a time in which the bias of media was well known and understood.  Even medium sized cities had two strong newspapers and media outlets so that the bias of one was offset by the bias of the other.  Even then, it is was less likely to bury the facts under commentary as much as it might be how the facts were treated.  When did that change?  Was it the loss of the newspapers as a powerful source of news and commentary?  Was it the invention of the news media?  Could it have been the government?  

Christopher Daly chronicles the government involvement in propaganda that substitutes as news or fact in the Smithsonian.  You can read it all there but in summary it tells the story of how President Woodrow Wilson's administration sought to control one of the pillars of democracy by implementing a plan to control, manipulate and censor all news coverage, on a scale never seen in U.S. history.  The freedom of the press is lauded as one of the most important pillars on which democracy rests but following the lead of the Germans and British, Wilson's administration used propaganda and censorship to effectively control what Americans heard and what they thought.  It ended up being an all-out war against the freedom of the press entered into because of a world war.  There have been plenty of recent articles on how ideology and governmental policy have constrained the opposition or challenge to the party line as well as become an effective wall to prevent certain truths or subjects from being openly discussed in the media.  You can read all about it but my concern is how the control of the narrative cedes this control to those who oppose you and how it affects the faith.

Christianity has done a pretty good job surrendering the narrative to those who oppose Biblical, creedal, and confessional doctrine and practice.  The only press space given to religious stories both in the public media and in social media is that which supports or extends the generally liberal or progressive view of things overall.  Consider the debate over Christian nationalism and how the media has chosen to portray not simply that subject but to define who fits under that umbrella.  Long ago the conservative Christian theological and moral position became a pariah on university campuses and among the intellectual elite in culture and politics.  It is not simply a matter of what is told but how it is told.  Consider how the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on the status of fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses created by reproductive technology has been covered.  Again, it is not simply a matter of whether we hear the story but the lens through which the story is told.

I realize that to many Christians this is a messy thing and they do not want to get their hands dirty.  Neither do I.  But I also realize that unless we reclaim the narrative and learn how to separate the ideology from the truth, we may end up not simply persona non grata but people without access to the public square at all.  Surely this is what is trying to happen in Finland with its persecution of MP Paivi Rasanen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola.  It is not enough to be acquitted when charged.  We must learn how to express ourselves and speak forth the truth in an age increasingly unfriendly to and without access to this Biblical truth and moral perspective.  By no means should we be mean or resentful.  We must be reasoned but no less passionate than the ideological enemies of the truth of God's Word against whom we are fighting.  We must proceed in full awareness that the media no longer guarantee a fair hearing to our cause and that they have become ideologically biased against the true Gospel and its practice.  But we must not surrender the narrative to their distortions or to the slant given them by the progressive worldview that underlies such opposition.  Perhaps this is exactly what Jesus meant in saying that the sons of darkness are shrewer than the children of Light or we must be wise as serpents while still as innocent as doves.  The time has long ago passed when we can could on any news outlet or social media to present the objective truth on just about anything and this also includes the objective truth of God's Word.

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