A friend of mine once told me about a small group of young people from his church that had gone and done some praiseworthy good deed. Local television sent a news crew to ask what had motivated them to do such a noble thing. Most of the group gave safe answers, but one girl talked about how her actions were an expression of her faith in Christ. I’ll let you guess which was the one piece of footage that they didn’t use when they ran the story.
We get used to Christianity being on the receiving end of selective reporting. The Christian faith usually features only when it’s held up as an ugly or bland contrast to some other more noteworthy hot topic, like homosexuality or Islam or Richard Dawkins. Sometimes we feel so victimised that we get excited when we finally see a media report that champions ‘Christian values’, crying “See! Someone important agrees with us!” as we share it with all our Facebook friends
Michael Banner, my ethics lecturer at King’s, said something on this topic. When you see such an article, he said, don’t get carried away; they are most certainly not running that piece because they have a Christ-centred world-view. What they are championing are the idols of ‘Family Values’ or ‘Traditional Morality’. That’s not the same as Christian. In fact, Christ is in opposition to anything that merely has the appearance of true religion. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this journalist is on your side, and be very cautious about aligning yourself with him.
When Cornerstone was out in Bourke they were heavily involved in the local community. When you get a group of talented people with a desire to make this Christianity thing work, then it should be no surprise that they go around meeting needs where they can. However, a national paper once ran a piece in their weekend magazine about this suspicious Christian cult that was taking over an outback town. Imagine if your church was heavily involved in good work in the community and then, out of nowhere, a national news outlet runs a piece basically saying, “Ah yes, but what’s their real motivation?” This idea of Cornerstone as some Machiavellian consortium out to build its own little Caliphate is a far cry from my own experience. Not everything you read in the paper reflects reality.
When I spoke to Paul Roe about that article he didn’t seem too bothered, in fact, he seemed quite pleased. His view was that if the atheists are being kept awake at night worrying about what you’re up to, then you’re probably on the right track. When you look at the stories spread about Christ by those who held the media power of the day, then you have to admit that he’s got a point. If you take the teachings of Jesus seriously, and dare to bring them with you out of the private sphere into the public, then you shouldn’t be surprised if the papers run front page spreads warning people of your dangerous, subversive behaviour or crowing over your mistakes. As Richard Wurmbrand wrote, “If you choose to walk the way of oneness with God, men will blow trumpets at your every misstep. Do not wonder! In this world, the wind is always in Christ’s face. The world agrees with true religion only in the measure to which God agrees with the devil.”
I have a quote on my wall that, as an inveterate people pleaser, I know I need to take to heart. It’s something that Jesus said:
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.”