“Andrew Faiz and others who write such blasphemous articles are the reason why I left the Presbyterian Church. I will go elsewhere, where the word of God is preached, not some half-baked nonsense about the Virgin Birth being a fantasy or that Jesus meeting John the Baptist is a lie. God doesn’t lie.”
— Cher, in an online response to Pop Christianity’s March column, Extremist in Love.
For me having a monthly column is a trust, to which I have many responsibilities. I hope it reflects my maturing faith; I know it reflects my complicated relationship with the church. My journalistic mantra is pulled from Matthew 22:37-40 and I have sought to follow it faithfully.
I have never consciously tried to be controversial; that’s a trap anyway. I am a privileged professional and I can take it as well as I can dish it. I get a lot of affirmation from this job, plus a paycheque, and I also get criticism. It doesn’t bother me; it’s part of the job. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I write. That would make for a boring society and a very uninteresting church. I hope always to be a conduit to conversation.
My colleagues on the editorial staff think of their calling at the magazine in similar terms; to give equal and constant voice to the offices, courts, schools, pulpits, pews and missions of the church. Sometimes one part will differ in opinion from another; that’s okay. Families don’t agree; they talk and then they break bread. We must do the same.
But every now and then comes a jab that is a conversation-ender and just plain stupid. The letter at top is an example.
In the letter I am being accused of blasphemy for misread opinions under my byline. They were within a quotation by Martin Luther King Jr., who was being critical of those who opine on “half-baked nonsense.” But the single-named letter writer from cyberspace completely missed the point of the quotation and the article and charged ahead to curse me, King and the Presbyterian Church.
But there’s more to this: What the letter writer is saying most of all is that any mention of any idea with which the writer disagrees is perforce blasphemous. That is anathema to conversation. You can’t talk with hate.
This is not unprecedented. In 2005 the Record published a news story of a presbytery where a gay couple wanting to get married had approached a minister. That brief article cost this magazine many subscriptions. The same year we had a news story of a minister charged with sexual assault. Also the source of lost subscriptions. There are other examples.
In these cases I assume the magazine was being punished for telling unpleasant stories. There are many pleasant stories to tell and we tell them in every issue. We also need to go to darker corners sometimes because as Christians, and also as journalists, that’s our responsibility. Still we understand the discomfort many feel. We’re sorry we have to go there but we have to because that too is part of the story of the Church.
Still, the egregious letter at top is hard to take. It begins with a closed mind, which leads to misreading, which leads to wild accusations.
But let us suppose for just a fleeting moment that I am as accused. Is my presence really a reason to leave a whole denomination? That is a responsibility I do not want.