I was in a conversation over lunch yesterday and for some reason I can’t remember I was reminded of an occasion (over ten years ago) when I was almost on TV as an ‘expert’ on a certain American singer (whose name sounds like she is a bit British and is into javelins*.)
I have never been a particular fan of this singer, and certainly am no expert, but a documentary was being prepared about her – to be broadcast on national terrestrial television. Her family attend a Baptist Church in America and the question they wanted address was ‘Is [the singer] good for Baptists?’
I was asked to go to the TV studio and contribute as the closest thing the Baptist Union of Great Britain had in the national office to someone who knew about youth culture. I went with a certain amount of trepidation and found the studio tucked away in a normal street, above a parade of shops. Once inside I was impressed with all of the technology that was crammed into a relatively small space.
The person interviewing me was really kind and helpful – I imagine he has had to deal with nervous people before – and put me at my ease quickly. Then he said that when he was asking me questions he would like me to incorporate the question in the response so it appeared as if I had not been asked a question at all. For (lame) example a normal interview might go:
“Why do you like chocolate?”
“Because it is so tasty.”
But if you edit out the question it doesn’t make sense. But if the interview goes:
“Why do you like chocolate?”
“I like chocolate because it is so tasty.”
This way the question can be edited out and the response makes sense on its own.
So, I was asked questions about the singer’s lifestyle, her fashion choices, her risque song lyrics and much more, with the expectation that as a (Baptist) Christian I would be condemning her for these things.
Instead I spoke about how she had to make her own choices in life and while I might not agree with them all I was not going to condemn her for them – the core of the message of Jesus is grace not judgement. After a while (and a couple of retries at the beginning as I got used to answering the questions as statements that stood on their own) the interviewer said that they had enough and that he was very happy with what we had. The show was due to be broadcast on the following Sunday and I left the studio feeling pleased with how it went.
The following Saturday I had a phone call. It was the interviewer. He was most apologetic and told me that my interview had not survived the final edit. Apparently I was not controversial enough. While he had liked my positive approach, it was not going to make for a salacious programme, so it ended up on the cutting room floor (metaphorically).
A few thoughts occur to me:
- Isn’t it a shame how there is an assumption that Christians will be negative, critical and judgemental? How can you help change that assumption this week?
- Isn’t it also a shame that negative, critical and judgemental statements are considered worthy of broadcast but gracious, positive ones aren’t?
- We need to be media-savvy. When someone makes a statement on TV or the radio it may be that it was in response to a question, not something that they volunteered to say. This happens more obviously on the radio when someone has been asked a question in an interview and then in a later news bulletin the question is edited out and it is reported as “So and so said…” which sounds like it is an opinion they wanted to share rather than something that was drawn out of them.
- And we need to remember that what we see, hear and read in the media is edited. It comes through the filter of another person who chooses what we will receive and what we won’t. It does not come ‘neutral’.
These words written by Paul to the Colossian church (Chapter 4) seem appropriate:
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace,seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Prayerful, watchful, thankful – three good approaches to life!
A post script to this was that I had told some of my work colleagues about the programme and was unable to tell them that I had be cut out so they watched the whole hour documentary in the hope of seeing me – it’s one way to increase viewing figures I suppose!
Be blessed, be a blessing
*Britain-y and Spears