reading news

Consuming Mainstream News Like a Christian

29 August 2022

4.3 MINS

Christians should start reading the news as though journalists were trying to influence their beliefs, worldview and vote – because that’s precisely what’s happening.

If you’re feeling a little distrustful of the legacy media, you’re not alone. In a 2021 global survey about media trust, Western nations came back with pretty poor results.

In Australia, only 43% trust mainstream reporting. In the USA, it’s even lower at 39%. Other recent data suggests the number in the US is as low as 36%.

On a positive note, we have a healthy level of scepticism in the West. Really high levels of trust aren’t always a great thing either—in China, 80% of people trust their media but they probably shouldn’t!

We Westerners have the opposite problem. Many of us feel like we’re being lied to, and that’s not a good development for democracy.

Why a Free and Independent Media Matters

The freedom of the press is a pillar of democracy. Our way of life as Aussies depends on a free press — one that properly scrutinises the government and other big institutions. We need a press that genuinely speaks on behalf of ordinary citizens. The lesson of history is that without a free press, governments won’t be held to account, and tyranny will be allowed to take root.

You may not have made this connection before, but the free press is a very Bible-inspired concept. In ancient Israel, God raised up prophets to hold Israel’s leaders accountable without fear or favour. The Old Testament prophets were the mouthpiece for truth. They would give divine affirmation of leaders who did what was right, but they were not afraid to give a sharp rebuke when a king — or even the whole nation — acted unjustly.

I’m not saying we have a perfect analogy here. Journalism isn’t a divine, God-appointed office. But journalists today play a comparable role to the Old Testament prophets. I would argue that the idea of a free press in our democracies grew out of this biblical precedent.

Since our founding, nations like the United States and Australia have had a built-in trust that the press would fulfil its role by holding each successive government to account, regardless of its political leaning.

For much of our history, the 20th century especially, this worked fairly well. It worked fairly well because our nations had a strong Christian consensus.

Even if not everyone was a Christian, most people believed that truth is objective, and that the media’s role was to tell the truth as objectively as possible. Of course this didn’t happen perfectly, but one thing is for sure: the media earned far greater levels of public confidence than it does today.

How Postmodernism Has Corrupted the Press

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but that Christian consensus has faded big time. In its place now we have postmodernism — the idea that truth is relative. Now, something can be true for you, and something else can be true for me, even if those two things contradict. And without Christianity in the way, we are now free to discover our own ideas about truth and reality.

But ideas have consequences.

Most of today’s journalists and newsroom editors went through universities that taught them to think as postmodernists. As a result, if journalists and editors feel strongly enough about something, they now tend to assume it is true rather than interrogating their own biases.

Their career has become a way to express who they are and what they believe, and to shape public opinion, rather than holding the powers-that-be to account.

Not all of journalists and editors behave this way. There are still some excellent people in the media who go after truth at all costs.

A while back, I wrote an article about some of the biggest names in media who did go after the truth during the crazy year that was 2020 — and who ended up getting muscled out of their jobs. There, I highlighted the stories of:

  • Glenn Greenwald, who founded The Intercept but quit after the other editors wouldn’t let him expose the Biden family for their corruption.
  • Matt Taibbi, who resigned as an editor at Rolling Stone, critical of how intolerant the press had become to anything that challenged their viewpoints.
  • Bari Weiss, who quit the New York Times after being bullied for giving conservative ideas a fair hearing.
  • Andrew Sullivan, who resigned from the New Yorker after fellow staffers turned on him for opposing Critical Race Theory.

All four are excellent journalists. Three of them happen to be gay — perhaps they weren’t gay enough! All of them blew the whistle on how intolerant and narrow-minded their newsrooms had become.

If you want to read more about their stories, check out China Censors Journalists—But So Did the West in 2020.

The Legacy Media and the Role of False Prophets

These four journalists are just a sampling of the courageous reporters who are getting punished for telling the truth. The fact is today’s newsrooms are crowded with woke progressive elites who live in a different world from most of their readers. The result is a media echo chamber, where many in the press just tell themselves and each other what they want to hear.

So let’s return to the comparison I made at the start between journalists and Israel’s prophets. The thing with Israel is that there weren’t just true prophets from God, there were false prophets too.

I believe we are now in a situation where many in the media — whether they are conscious of it or not — are playing the role of false prophets. They have the nation’s trust, as in Israel’s day, but they have traded truth for their own opinions.

I empathise with Christians — especially from the boomer generation on up — who still look to the old guard media for truth the way ancient Israel looked to its prophets.

That desire for an institution that has integrity and goes after the truth and holds our leaders to account without fear or favour is a good desire. But the simple fact is that this is no longer happening.

Yes, the legacy media is still useful for many things — local events, sports, weather, regional issues, and lots more besides. But when it comes to politics, we must listen to these outlets as though they were seeking to influence our views and our vote — because they are.

For years, the church has been wrestling with the question of how to approach secular entertainment like a Christian. Now we need to start asking, “How do I consume mainstream news like a Christian?”


Image by Nijwam Swargiary on Unsplash.

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One Comment

  1. Kaylene Emery 29 August 2022 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    If only we as Christians can act as we know He wants us to .
    Psalm 32.8
    I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will guide you with my eye.

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