By Rev. Schalk Strauss
Opinion leaders can be described as people in society who, due to their influence and stature, have the ability to influence society’s opinion on matters. These are people whose words carry weight and who are trusted by ordinary people. When we think about opinion makers, certain individuals’ names usually come to mind, but there are also certain professions that can be classified as opinion makers. One such group is the media, or journalists. It can’t be, we might think, because aren’t they supposed to be presenting only the facts? This may be our expectation, but the reality is that no reporting is neutral. The way in which information is transmitted plays an important role in public opinion. Just think of all the different ways in which Israel’s war against Hamas is reported. Those who are pro-Israel will deliberately choose their words in such a way as to emphasize Hamas’s terrorist character, while those who are anti-Israel may refer to them as freedom fighters.
Media houses usually pride themselves on being politically or religiously neutral. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as absolute neutrality, because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes it is therefore just better if a media house makes its biases and position clear from the outset, because then one knows what to expect and not to be disappointed if your expectations are not met in the way in which they report . For example, we know by now that the liberal media will always try to make the failures of the ANC government look as good as possible, instead of being honest about it and calling it by name. This testifies to a certain point of view and is a way to positively influence public opinion, but it is not honest.
One is therefore also grateful for media houses, radio stations and social media channels that are not ashamed to recognize their Christian underpinnings and approach. One expects something different from them than from other so-called “neutral media houses”, but which in reality are not so neutral. One expects a Christian perspective and a kind of credibility that you will not find at other media houses. You expect certain word choices and expressions; you expect a less politically correct attack and a more God-glorifying manner of reporting. You expect program content and song choices that do not contradict or deliberately undermine Christian values and principles. This does not mean that every report contains a Christian message, but that reporting will bear witness to a Christian view of life and worldview.
Believers who are in these professions have a great responsibility on their shoulders. It is to be credible, but in a way that honors God. It sometimes lies in the little things like the choice of a word. For example, you don’t expect to read in an article from such a media house about the first “transgender woman” who met a Miss. Universe competition does not participate. You may argue that you are only presenting the facts, but merely presenting the facts is not necessarily the truth. After all, God created man male and female and a transgender woman is nothing but a man who disdains his God-given identity. You don’t expect to read or hear about “robbers” who killed farmers on their farms in news reports from such a media house or radio station. Just because their motive was robbery does not mean I have to mitigate the brutality of their actions by denying their characters as murderers. The moment they kill someone, they are no longer just robbers, they are murderers. You don’t expect to read in such news papers that the “rugby gods” smiled on the Springboks so they could win, because there is only one true God.
As religious opinion makers we should formulate more sharply, but as religious listeners we should also listen more carefully so that we can distinguish the subtexts. So let us pray for those who have been called by God to play the role of an opinion maker through journalism. A great responsibility rests on their shoulders. May the Lord grace everyone who is placed in that position by his Spirit so that Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8 will influence the way in which they live out their calling: “Furthermore, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy – whatever virtue and whatever praise there may be, think about it.”
- This article is posted courtesy of the AP Church.
- Rev. Schalk Strauss is the editor of The Messengera publication of the Afrikaans Protestant Church.