I am so excited about this upcoming message on the parable of a journalist. Four have agreed to help me with sermon research – a Edmonton based TV producer, a Beijing based foreign correspondent, a columnist in Toronto and a Reuters reporter from the UK. Yesterday I sent out a few exegetical questions for each to engage.
This morning I got my first response (from the TV producer). After reading her answer to my first question I was kind of taken aback. Already her journalistic heart was teaching me something new about God – something I hadn’t thought of before.
Below is how the conversation played out – first, my initial question, then her answer and then my response to her answer.
What do you love most about your work as a journalist?
I get to call up complete strangers and ask them to tell me about themselves.
Other people are the most interesting thing in the world – but it can be intrusive to ask a stranger to open up to you. I’ve had the great privilege, for example, of asking grieving parents to tell me all about their extraordinary daughter who had died before her 30th birthday of aggressive breast cancer. I got to ask a man who lost both arms up to the shoulder to show me how he brushes his hair and puts on his socks – and how he keeps going day to day without succumbing to sadness and despair. I got to have dinner with a couple who’d finally brought home their little boy from Haiti after the terrifying earthquake made them fear they’d lost him right at the end of the adoption process.
In many of these situations, it’s safe to say I was asking some questions even my interview subjects’ closest friends and family might have hesitated to ask. But it was my job to be bold and ask difficult questions so I dove in and did it in spite of myself. In the end, I would often leave interviews feeling so connected to the people I’d talked to – and lucky to be their storyteller.
I do fewer personal interviews at this stage in my career, but it’s still pretty great to call someone up and basically say, “Hey, you know that thing you’re the most passionate about? That you’ve devoted years of your life to? Tell me all about that! And let me help you tell other people all about it, too. Because your life’s work/expertise/personal experience are worthy of being shouted from the rooftops. People need to know what you think.” I’m constantly talking to new, interesting people and learning new things. That means my own horizons are always expanding. And that’s the best thing about what I do.
My Response – This is such a beautiful answer! One of the angles that I hope to pursue in this sermon is the idea that journalists are, in a very real way, like the bible’s prophets. Most people think prophecy is always about the future (and that future part ‘is’ there) but it’s also very much about the present – about “telling the truth about reality as it is”… no matter how hard it is to tell that truth. Sometimes biblical truth telling comes in the form of a judgment, other times it’s an eloquent statement of beauty or hope (like the stories you cite above). What I find compelling in what you said above is that I’ve never once considered that the prophet Isaiah might have felt ‘lucky to be [God's] story teller’, or that he would have struggled in getting to the truth of a situation (i.e.: asking tough questions), that in telling the truth about reality he might felt closer to God (the author of the stories Isaiah told). And that you so passionately want to get people’s ‘good stories’ out there > well that, to me, is just so incredibly God-like! I personally believe that God is mysteriously, behind the scenes, authoring all stories. So when you write and produce stories of good, beauty and sometimes hard truth, you’re in a very real sense relaying God’s words to the world. Like you, I think God thinks “other people are the most interesting thing in the world!” God is interested in everything and everyone. I guess that you, doing your job, is one way he shows that interest!