The Slippery Slope to Losing Our Free Press

“A free press was born when America was born. It was not handed down or inherited. The concept of press freedom was deliberately constructed by the framers of our Constitution to instill the spirit of independence as an absolute, crucial ingredient in the creation, existence, and survival of a free society.” – Jerry Friedheim Executive V.P of American Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, 1986

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Amendment 1:

“Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech; or of the press…” 

Do you know how important it is we have a free press?

Nations rise and fall on this.

A free press means the press can critique our leaders and hold them accountable without being discounted, censored, sent to jail or killed.

It is also really closely linked with free speech (a clause later) which has major effects on being able to share the gospel freely. I love to share the gospel freely. I love the rest of that amendment.

I am concerned.

Actually, I want to jump around and point and shout and do a little dance and say, “ARE YOU WATCHING?!!?!? THIS IS DANGEROUS!”

There are those in this country that are undermining our freedom of the press.

Right now.

Discounting it and censorship are the first steps.

Having people that only ask the questions you like or make you look good is BAD. Always. That is a type of censorship.

I don’t know if anything could be worse for democracy. What would be the result if there was no check on those in power by dissenting voices who could question, critique, and challenge them? You can see those governments around the world today. They exist in plain site.

I filled out a national survey last week. My background as an undergrad was communication, sociology, and comparative religion. The social science nature of the degrees I collected meant we had to take classes on research methods. I had to take classes on statistics (I am really bad at statistics). Those disciplines have an accountability to studying a subject or population and teach methods to gathering data well. They were the most boring classes but probably the most important.

Wording a question in a confusing way or disguising it will not help your data be accurate.

Playing on people’s’ prejudices with sweeping statements not backed up with fact is a bad way to write a question. It will sway data.

Leading questions are not good when creating surveys or trying to gather accurate data.

The survey I filled out, the national survey I filled out,  that came from the leaders of the land was about the press and it was almost entirely filled with leading questions.

There were some scary questions but one that disturbed me because I could almost say yes was this one: “Do you believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media?”

Well, yes. Christians are usually portrayed as idiots. (Though some that claim Christ totally are idiots.) But this question is asked to what end?  Do I want to force the press to conform to my worldview? That is not healthy. Do I want to cut off their voice of critique of my faith? It makes me sad when they don’t represent me well, however, free press means free press.

We need to remember history and that it never bodes well for the Church when we go to bed with power. There always is a watering down of the gospel, a syncretism as we become blind that we are adding any particular cultural views of the day to our Christianity and saying they are the same thing.

Power and Christianity are diametrically opposed.

Our King laid down his life for people. For his enemies.

I think I answered the question yes, but that I’d rather the press have the freedom to be unfair to me than to have its voice censored.

There is a difference between having a different opinion or worldview than me and being discounted as fake or censored out every time they say something that offends someone. We need to not mix the two up or we will make ourselves vulnerable to tyranny.

I am a Christian and know that many parts to my worldview are not popular in society. How do I respond to people’s criticism to a Christian worldview is more important that how they respond to mine. I can respond in light of the gospel that I believe is true, or I can respond with defensiveness. I can apply the Bible to every situation, for one, know that those who do not know Christ, should not be expected to filter their worldview through His. I can be kind. I can remember that Christians will be persecuted.

But should those who do not know Christ like I do conform to a Christian worldview? Why on earth would they? I expect journalists to think I am weird. I can faithfully love and follow Jesus and serve others and the most interesting stories will be me living out the gospel. I do not expect them to interpret the world from a Christian point of view.

 

If I am treated unfairly, I should remember Jesus SAID that would be the case.

 

We do not go after the press and try to limit their function. That is dangerous ground.

 

We NEED the press. It is common grace (that’s a Biblical idea). We need their difficult questions to be asked. We need them to not be written off because they do not have the same worldview as someone they are interviewing and questioning. We need to remember that the press is one form of a check in our country that helps safeguard us from the natural bent of humanity towards the sin of selfishness or even tyranny over others.

Critique is worthy and necessary for a free country.

“The press must be free; it has always been so and much evil has been corrected by it. If government finds itself annoyed by it, let it examine its own conduct and it will find the cause.” Thomas Erskine Scottish jurist [1750-1823]

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