Correction for Driscoll, but abysmal article remains

A few weeks ago, we all sighed in unison over The Atlantic‘s piece on the emerging church’s supposed connection to Invisible Children, the group behind the viral video Kony 2012.

The piece had many, many problems, but one of the most glaring ones was the description of Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll as “an Emerging Liberal.”

Sorry, what?

A reader sent us a note that the piece had been updated, a welcome correction after we called for one. But if you go into the piece, you’ll see that not much has been changed. This is the paragraph in question:

Contemporary institutional religion, as opposed to “redemption,” is “the most disgusting false gospel in the world!” Pastor Mark Driscoll, who identifies himself as an Emerging Liberal, declared in a sermon on YouTube.* “Religious people are the ones murdering Jesus.”

You have to go all the way to the bottom of the lengthy article to find the update:

* – This sentence originally identified Mark Driscoll as an “Emerging Liberal” in the Emerging Church movement. According to a spokesperson for Driscoll’s Mars Hill ministry, he was once affiliated with other theologians affiliated with Emerging Liberals, but now identifies himself as an “Emerging Reformer.”

What a joke. It’s like the editor mumbled, “Well, this is what he said, but we don’t really believe him.” Why even bother updating it if you’re not going to completely correct the sentence?

I asked Mars Hill about the correction, and a spokesperson sent me this note:

Their update was a nice gesture, although buried at the bottom of the second page in the “fine print.” It would have made more sense for them to change it in the article with a strikethrough or something more obvious. The writer certainly doesn’t understand the emerging movement, and doesn’t seem to know Pastor Mark very well. However, we are not worried about the quotes they used or how they represent Pastor Mark, other than the liberal label.

This section of the article was enough to set off the alarm bells of many of the commenters that the reporting behind the entire piece. Piece by piece, the article fails to draw clear connections between the emerging church and the organization behind Kony 2012.

Jordan spotted another error I completely missed the first time around. The piece links to an interview by the “Catholic radio station Relevant Radio.” Wait, he means the evangelical magazine Relevant? Oh man. Yet another reason why the editors of The Atlantic should consider just pulling the entire piece off the web.

David commented:

That liberal Mark Driscoll! (No one tell Slate.)

The writer of the Atlantic piece has this bio:

JOSH KRON – Josh Kron is a writer backed in Kampala, Uganda. He covers east Africa and Africa’s Great Lakes Region for The New York Times and has written for Foreign Policy, The Guardian, CNN, and Ha’aretz.

What does it mean by “backed in Kampala”? Is that a typo? Should it be “based”? Is the Atlantic a professional organization?

Mollie responded: “That confused me, too. And set the tone for the entire piece ….”

A friend of mine asked if the quality of journalism is going downhill. It’s too complicated to say across the board, but at The Atlantic, I wonder if there’s a high demand for online content that wouldn’t reach the standards needed for print. I still subscribe and enjoy getting the monthly print edition, but leaving a piece like this on its website does at least some damage to its credibility.

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  • Jeff

    “A friend of mine asked if the quality of journalism is going downhill. It’s too complicated to say across the board, but at The Atlantic, I wonder if there’s a high demand for online content that wouldn’t reach the standards needed for print. I still subscribe and enjoy getting the monthly print edition, but leaving a piece like this on its website does at least some damage to its credibility.”

    Any outfit that subsidizes a hateful, delusional conspiracy theorist like Andrew Sullivan has few journalistic standards and little credibility at all — as the very, very shoddy piece discussed here only goes to show.

  • Jeff

    And don’t even get me started on Christopher Hitchens.

  • http://www.redletterbelievers.com David Rupert

    to call Driscoll a liberal is a real stretch.

  • Darrell Turner

    There is a Catholic radio network called Relevant Radio that broadcasts on 34 stations in 13 states.

    http://relevantradio.com/about-us/mission-statement

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Darrell, you beat me to it. I’m a producer for The Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio, our afternoon drive time talk show. I had not read the Driscoll piece, but would have been totally perplexed if I had because, to the best of my knowledge, we’ve never had Pastor Mark on any show on the network. But, hey, we’ll take the free advertising!

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    And I forgot to mention that we’ve had the Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway and tmatt on our show a couple of times before to talk about issues raised here on Get Religion. Thanks to both of them for their great contributions.

  • carl jacobs

    I have this theory about how the media handles factual errors in stories. Said theory briefly stated is this: “Why correct factual errors that the target audience doesn’t care about and doesn’t really want to know about anyways?” This piece is intended to convey the message that ‘fundamentalist’ religion is giving way. It is supposed to re-assure its readership of the truth of its worldview. Mark Driscoll’s actual associations aren’t relevant to the achievement of that purpose. The target audience won’t know a liberal emergent from a reformed emergent from Matthew Fox. They won’t even care. They just want to be told that Jerry Falwell’s religion is as dead as he is.

    So the organization fudges the ‘correction’ and the target audience is content. The fundamental ‘truth’ of the story remains intact despite the error that was never really admitted in the first place.

    carl

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    To clarify, the story that the reporter to was linked to a Relevant magazine podcast where they interviewed Jason Russell, not to Relevant radio, so the reporter made assumptions about who aired the story.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    The description of Driscoll is bad enough, but now I think it’s even worse: Wikipedia’s entry on Driscoll has an great, well-sourced quote from Driscoll himself explaining his relationship with the “emerging church”:

    In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the Emerging Church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me. Examples include referring to God as a chick, questioning God’s sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a low view of Scripture, and denial of hell which is one hell of a mistake.

    Driscoll’s rejection of “referring to God as a chick” should put to rest any concerns about him being a “Liberal.” :)

    Also, I have to wonder: did Driscoll’s spokesperson really call him a “Reformer”? Or did the spokesperson say that Driscoll was Reformed, and the Atlantic editor had no idea what he was talking about?


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