Let me make two things very clear before I expound on why I wholeheartedly believe the title to this post is absolute truth:
1. I love Leadership Journal and Out of UR, who are both owned by Christianity Today. It amazes me how the right hand doesn’t know what it’s doing from the left hand, as Leadership Journal and Out of UR have given The Marin Foundation, Love is an Orientation and our work balanced reviews, here and here.
2. I can take criticism. In fact, I think it’s healthy and I actually learn a lot from people who don’t agree with me [see the many conversations on this blog that have strongly influenced, even changed, my thoughts; which I publicly admit]
However, Christianity Today has taken themselves to a new level of distrust in anything they write—not just with what they have falsely written about me in the last six months, but now also about my close friend, Soong-Chan Rah. I will start with Soong-Chan’s situation:
You can see the Soong-Chan Rah debacle here. And this article was written by Christianity Today’s managing editor, Mark Galli! Wow. In essence, they quoted lengthy portions from his recent book, gave him no credit (except to refer to him as an “Asian”), and then tore his life, thoughts and experiences apart, completely out of context. Why this has me so mad is because they have done the same thing to me, twice.
The first time they did this to me was in a review of my book in their Books & Culture section, written by Wesley Hill. Mr. Hill took a few random, unconnected quotes out of my book and formulated an opinion on those singular words. He gave no context, no background, or no supplemental information that would all prove his stance completely wrong. It’s almost as if he didn’t read the book and just picked out a couple sentences to fit his presupposition of who I am, what I’m all about and what my message is. Over the past year I have done over 50 interviews (radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, secular and Christian), and I have found one clear difference between legitimate reporters/media people and folks who are out to pick a fight or make a point:
True reporters pick out larger themes imbedded throughout the work and focus on those. People out to pick a fight or espouse their own opinions narrowly focus on random words or sentences and formulate their own theme around what they choose as important.
Did Mr. Hill try to contact me or anyone else with a divergent opinion from himself? No. Did he care to? I’m guessing not, otherwise he would have sought out a balanced approach—the structure that good reporters/reviews take to their work (whether at the end of the day if he agreed or disagreed with my stance is not the point). All I got from Mr. Hill was a quick email after the article was published saying that “although my review is somewhat critical … I consider myself on the same team.” That means nothing to me after what he published. Even as I write this I’m still thinking to myself, “Andrew, don’t be ungrateful, and be grateful that Mr. Hill even sent an email to you in the first place. He could have not contacted you at all.” Just being honest though, I don’t feel I’m being ungrateful and I don’t take lightly, any amount of backhanded compliments after-the-fact.
The second time was an article Christianity Today published in July 2009, written by Bobby Ross Jr. Please read the article and then please read the very first comment made in the Comments Section by Mark Oestreicher, the main subject of the article! Why this article bothers me so much is that not only did they once again not talk to me, but they used me as the sole example of what is dividing the Church, and not uniting it. Give me a break. Christianity Today is so out of touch with what divides/unites the church it amazes me. Here are two interesting behind the scenes facts:
1. I got a phone call from Youth Specialties after the interview for this article was complete and the person told me that Mr. Ross talked to Mark Oestreicher for a lengthy amount of time, trying to get him to say that it was my fault for the shift in the conference model. And Christianity Today calls that subjective reporting?
2. In early 2009 Youth Specialties did a survey of conference participants and youth pastors involved with their organization and asked them what are the top issues that need to be covered? Do you want to know what the #1 answer was: Homosexuality.
Once again, who is in the right about the scope and trends surfacing throughout our faith—not Christianity Today. Not with the topic of homosexuality nor about the state of evangelicalism through their words about Soong-Chan. This all makes me sick to my stomach.
I have sat on writing about my thoughts regarding Christianity Today for months because I didn’t want to sound like I was complaining or giving a knee-jerk reaction, but I can’t help but to call them out at this time. Christianity Today continues to print things they falsify as truth, using their leverage and power to wrongly influence thousands of people who wrongly have put their trust in them. I don’t care that Billy Graham founded the magazine decades ago. And I’m sure if he knew what was going on that he wouldn’t be pleased in the least bit. I’m just amazed that Christianity Today, their leadership who allows this shotty reporting to happen, as well as some of the people who do the “writing” and “reporting” for them, continually get a pass because of their name. It all needs a complete overhaul. Who knows how many more articles have recently been published that we’ll never know were totally false because no one has spoken up—because it’s really scary to fight against “the man”, especially when “the man” is waaaay bigger than you and a really well known media outlet!
At least they responded to Soong-Chan’s email questioning the article they wrote about him, as all of my phone calls and emails to Christianity Today seeking an explanation to what was written about me have never been responded to. I can’t think of a more shady practice. If you’re going to write about me, give me the dignity to speak to me person to person before something is published; especially since I live about 40 minutes from their offices. Am I not “famous” enough for them to respond to me? Or are they just blatantly using me as a pawn regarding the topic of homosexuality? Who knows, but either way it’s ridiculous.
Writing this post will probably solidify a strained relationship between myself and Christianity Today, and that really hurts my heart (personally and professionally) but it’s something I have to put out there for you all to decide what to do with. I can’t just sit back and let this continue to happen.