The Religion Beat

The following is an excerpt from the book Unbelievable: Examining the Unlikely Beauty Of the Christian Story

Many of my Christian friends have expressed that they have a feeling of living in a foreign culture where they don’t speak the language. They feel outraged and bewildered by a culture full of, as the prophet Isaiah put it,   
those who call evil good
     and good evil, 
who put darkness for light
     and light for darkness, 
who put bitter for sweet
     and sweet for bitter.  

In 1999, I was a local news reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I covered local schools and city council, and I was doing occasional religion stories. On a sticky-hot summer day, my editor took me to lunch and told me I wouldn’t be writing any more religion stories. He intended to stop assigning them to me, and if I got a lead on any good religion stories, I was to pass them along to him so he could assign them to someone else. When I asked for his reason, he said, “You’re too close to it.” He questioned whether I could be objective since my faith was so important to me.   

That logic made no sense to me, and I told him as much. I told him that a religion section written only by irreligious people seemed like a bad idea. It seemed like trading light for darkness. But now that I’ve had sixteen years to cool down, I can see that he may have been right. If given the opportunity to protect Christian clergy or blast scandal, would my allegiance to good journalism have won out over my allegiance to the church? If a story about Islam could be told with or without unsavory details, would I have been tempted to include them? I like to think that I was a good journalist, but I was also young and zealous, and my wizened, veteran, hardscrabble editor might have known what he was doing. His ultimate goal (good journalism) was different than mine (God’s glory), but he wasn’t an idiot. And he wasn’t evil.   

If we’re going to improve our cultural dialogue, we'll have to be able to disagree with people who don’t share our ultimate aim without belittling theirs. We’ll have to be able to see the world through their eyes instead of mocking their blindness. All of us — good and evil, sweet and bitter alike — need to be reminded that Christianity is the most fantastic, impossible, unbelievable collection of folk tales ever assembled. It’s hard stuff to believe. That’s what makes it worth believing.