The recent Time cover photo featuring President Trump glowering at a crying child infuriated me – even before I knew it had been faked. On the front of a supposed “news magazine,” the photoshopped cover was created to provoke anger instead of communicating truth about what is happening with immigrant families. The actual story was gripping enough, without fictionalizing it. The cover underscores this sad reality: there is no trustworthy media source in America today.
To even get close to a true picture of current events requires considering multiple media sources, filtering their admitted biases, recognizing their unadmitted biases, and ferreting the truth from the static designed to drive ratings and sell commercials – not communicate facts.
Unfortunately, some Christian media also demonstrate bias and truth-slanting to make their particular point. This was clear in a recent article about Dr. J. D. Greear, new president of the Southern Baptist Convention. It twisted his words to fit the agenda of the writer, not to accurately communicate his position on the issues – but it did trend on Twitter (so it must have been important, right?).
What is also sad is how many Christians are duped by media reports into making conclusive statements based on the limited information available to them. I was recently asked to comment on a situation at another seminary. The conversation went like this.
“Dr. Iorg, what is your opinion about this situation?” My answer: “I don’t have one. I don’t have enough information to draw definitive conclusions.” “But aren’t you reading and hearing about it?” My answer: “Yes. But knowing that information is not the same as having the facts. The people making the decisions have facts I don’t have. It would be foolish to make summative judgments on partial information.”
The person asking for my opinion was frustrated. He expects leaders today to play public “gotcha” and enhance their notoriety by having an instant social media opinion on every new issue. Wise leaders know better than to react that way. Real influence is not about titillating social media followers. It’s about shaping decisions – through legal processes, institutional governance, managing people, and allocating resources. This is how real leaders affect change – in public life, in corporate life, and in ministry leadership.
Let’s be wiser about how we interface with all media, the presumptive statements we make about public events, the ways we portray other people, and the ways we measure leadership influence. Particularly Christian leaders, let’s demonstrate the public discipline to make measured and purposeful decisions that evidence genuine leadership – not the fluffier impostor masquerading as leadership today.