If a Liberal Falls in the Forest, Does Anyone Hear?

Fred Clark brings our attention to a statement released by liberal Christian leaders:

So yesterday, more than 60 Christian leaders released a statement “expressing their strong opposition to any legislative proposal that fails to extend the 2009 improvements made to refundable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

I’m quoting there from Nick Sementelli of the progressive Christian group Faith in Public Life. Pretty much have to quote from a group like that because statements like this are mostly otherwise ignored by cable news and the rest of the media — the same media who eagerly report and repeat every utterance from the religious right.

I’ve searched Google News for an article about this statement, or for a photo. Nothing. Nada. There is the video above, with a grand total of 38 views, posted by the group itself.

Fred expresses consternation that the mainstream media is ignoring this statement, noting that these leaders (including several of my friends, like Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren), represent 45 million Americans.

He ends by asking, “Why isn’t this ‘newsworthy’?”

Well, Fred, it’s not newsworthy because it’s not interesting. It’s boring. I mean, seriously, just watch the video.

That doesn’t mean it’s not important. But importance doesn’t translate to newsworthy. Just ask Neil Postman.

And not that there’s anything wrong with boring. Lots of things that we do every day are boring, and un-newsworthy. But this was meant to be newsworthy, and it wasn’t.

If a few dozen evangelicals meet on a Texas ranch to decide whether Mitt Romney is a real Christian, you can bet there’ll be news choppers circling overhead.

Liberals are boring because they’re predictable, and predictable isn’t newsworthy. Also, liberals tend to be more nice, civil, and genteel. Those qualities, also, don’t work well on the nightly news.

So, fellow progressives, I ask you to be interesting, then you’ll be newsworthy.

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  • Frank

    “liberals tend to be more nice, civil, and genteel. ”

    Are you actuality saying that with a straight face?

    • Carl

      I thought that must have been a joke too. One only has to read Tony’s blog for a little bit to see how vitriolic he and his followers can be.

      • While I think it was overstated, I tend to find a lot of conservatives think they have the exact same problem. In fact, the majority of conservatives I know talk about how vicious liberals are and how you don’t see that from the right. I find both sides to be false on that point. Both sides are beyond capable of “being not so nice”.

  • Tracy

    I wish this was offered at Huffpo Religion, where yet again today an essayist asked, “where are the decent Christians?” (his words, not mine) in this whole Chik Fil A drama. The answer is: we were typing our fingers off on blogs here, there and everywhere– but apparently not enough to make it onto the national news.

  • Ouch! That video is painful to watch. Here’s a question: Do you think liberals can be charismatic without being the opposite of nice, civil, and genteel? Or must we reflect the opposite of those qualities that you claim is in the other? There is certainly a place for passionately confronting broken systems of our world, but when Christians (conservative or liberal) fall into the trap of being mean, nasty, and uncivil, we compromise kingdom values. I don’t think the point is so much to be “newsworthy” as it is to show the world a different way than being mean, nasty, and uncivil.

  • “If a few dozen evangelicals meet on a Texas ranch to decide whether Mitt Romney is a real Christian, you can bet there’ll be news choppers circling overhead.”

    As someone observed on an earlier post, this is in part because these evangelicals have the ear of an entire political party and their related constituents. And it’s not that they’re being unpredictable…this is how that branch of American Christianity has been operating for decades. Instead, it’s because whatever they talk about has real implications for how that party campaigns and governs.

    It’s too bad speaking out for the poor and marginalized isn’t sexy or exciting. Maybe these leaders should have invited U2 to play beforehand.

  • Maybe wearing lampshades on our heads while making serious announcements would be a step in the non-boring direction?

  • “Liberals are boring because they’re predictable, and predictable isn’t newsworthy.”

    Westboro Baptist Church are very predictable and they’re on the news all the time.

    • Ben

      Westboro is predictably crazy / odd, that is why they are newsworthy / interesting. The same goes for the religious right. Sensational is newsworthy, not frumpy boring.

  • VG

    “Liberals are boring because they’re predictable, and predictable isn’t newsworthy. Also, liberals tend to be more nice, civil, and genteel. Those qualities, also, don’t work well on the nightly news.
    So, fellow progressives, I ask you to be interesting, then you’ll be newsworthy.”

    Are you actually asking the progressive base to be super nutty and spew vitriol just to get attention? Do groups like the aforementioned WBC get attention just because of their craziness? [hathos – we want to turn away but just can’t seem to] Is attracting “news” the right path to be seeking? I’m confused by the general point of this post.

  • Maybe because a lot of conservative churches are made up of the poor and help the poor as congregations.

    Meanwhile, liberals have wealthy churches that like to make announcements about the helping the poor.

    Sure, that’s a generalization. But it fits the style of a lot of the generalizations that are made about conservatives.

    Nutty conservatives get press. Nutty liberals get press (remember the overwhelming coverage of the Occupy movement?). Quiet people doing quiet work, and boring people making boring statements don’t. Then, we only see the worthwhile ones if we hang out where they are at. If we only care about the caricatures, however, that’s the only ones we see.

  • Craig

    The religious right often forces itself into the conversation through the courts. Maybe liberal Christians could sometimes do the same.

    You might, for example, argue that state-enforced prohibitions of same-sex marriage not only harm the sacred institution of marriage, but they also improperly enforce the values of one religious group at the expense of your own. Are the Catholic bishops’ latest objections to health insurance policies any better than your grounds for objecting to federal taxation that fund unjust wars, drone attacks in Pakistan, and an obscenely large military?

  • Craig

    Another possible lesson from the Christian right: rail against a clearly defined and threatening enemy while portraying yourselves, the persecuted faithful, as the last line of defense.

    Who are the enemy? How about this: that whore of babylon, the conservative “Christian” church, who, under the deceptive rubric of a homophobic, zygote worshiping, jingoistic culture war, has abandoned the call of Christ to serve the cooperations, the warmongers, and the wealthy elite.

    Also, get evangelistic. Take the message to their high-school aged children and younger. Hold carnivals, youth rallies, and follow up Bible studies. In your prayer meetings, join with these youngsters to petition the Lord to deliver their parent’s minds from the lies of the false prophets on talk radio and Fox News.

  • When Al Franken was on Air America, he did a great job of listening carefully to the right-wingers during interviews and discussions. He would let them lay out their unsupportable positions, using all the anecdotal data and made up facts they had, then say, “are you done? is that it?” Then he would correct them, refute them and educate them. It sometimes takes calling someone stupid or heartless to get their attention, and then you need to have your story straight to back it up.

  • Curtis

    There is no excuse for bad communication skills. Jesus was a master of the communication tools of his day — group speeches, short stories and aphorisms. Paul was a master of communication tools for his day — letters. Luther was a master of communication tools for his day — popular music, writing, printing press, reading. There is no excuse for spiritual leaders to not be, at the same time, masters of the communication techniques for their time.

    This has nothing to do with being liberal, nice, or civil. It has everything to do with not being adept at the communication tools of our time. There is no excuse for it.

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