interview me baby one more time

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?’

SONY DSC

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:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 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. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 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

blogs should be full of meaning and not hurt

In Victorian Britain, so we are told, children were to be ‘seen and not heard’. They were to maintain a discrete distance from their parents and only make their presence felt when it was requested. Until now I have always taken that at face value. But I have just realised that it is a very middle/upper class view of things. Dickens’ children were anything but quiet. But many of them were from underprivileged backgrounds where presumably they were permitted or even required to be noisy and robust in the presence of adults.

This rather pathetic epiphany got me thinking about other ‘facts’ I take at face value. In particular, the items we are fed by the news media. This is not going to turn into a bashing of any particular conveyor of news (printed, spoken or broadcast visually). Rather it is a reminder that usually other people decide what is important for us to know. If you doubt this, I suggest you look at the different headlines on the front of the national newspapers today. Editors choose what’s newsworthy, and they decide what is most important for us to consider. We choose what to read, watch or listen to, but someone else has already narrowed that choice down for us.

We may be happy with that, but at least let’s be aware. This week has seen the launch of the online Baptist Times (www.baptisttimes.co.uk) which also has an editor. Rather kindly they have a section that mentions Baptist bloggerists like me – thank you BT.

People suggest that the world wide web is the only place that is uncensored and provides unfettered access to the truth. As they used to say on the X Files, ‘The truth is out there.’ But we are also told the lie that truth is relative, which means that nobody can criticise anyone else for their point of view. Tell that to the people who write comments on some of the online news media! Especially, it seems, those who want to claim intellectual superiority by bashing Christian faith. It seems that truth is only relative if you don’t disagree with it.

Jesus said that ‘The truth will set you free.’ Which truth was he talking about? Discuss…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

True genius is knowing how many lightbulbs it takes to change a person.

 

(If that seems surreal, think about how cartoonists portray ideas)

my national media career progress update

Another little bonus bloggerel for today.

A couple of days ago the Inter Milan manager, Rafael Benitez, had a go at the current manager of Liverpool in a press conference. In the middle of his rant he said that “some people cannot see a priest in a mountain of sugar.” I was listening to BBC Radio 5 Live and the reporter who was in the press conference was saying that nobody understood what he was going on about.

I had a rare moment of lucidity and texted the Radio station to explain that because priests wear black they would be very obvious on a mountain of sugar. My comment was read out as the explanation (someone else pointed out that it is a Spanish saying). My national media career has started!

Actually, if that is a national media career, it started in 2005 when Didcot Town won the FA Vase. I was travelling back from the match with a group of friends from Didcot and texted BBC Radio 5 Live to congratulate Didcot on their win since it was not being mentioned at all. That got read out too.

At this rate by the time I have retired I will have had 7 texts read out on national radio! Watch this space (in five years’ time).

It’s good for my humility!!