Last week was an interesting one for us as Church of the Rock was the subject of a CBC radio series specifically on our congregation. We were approached by CBC producer Donna Carriero who told us they were doing stories about communities that they don’t know anything about. They had already done one on the Muslim community in our city and wanted to do one on an Evangelical church because they admitted they really didn’t know anything about us. It is absolutely true that we are a misunderstood and a poorly represented community in the media. Evangelicals generally get presented as square headed Christians that are against a bunch of things; like same sex marriage and abortion and the like. They never seem to see that that is a tiny slice of who we are and that evangelicalism is really about loving, helping, serving and blessing our communities and our world. My title, Dancing withe Devil, is perhaps a little misleading, but letting the media into our fold for a closer look was a bit of a roll of the dice. Typically when dealing with the media, what you think the story is going to be about and what it ends up being, are usually two totally different things. When I was younger I was given some good advice about dealing with the media; “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel… you are going to lose”.
Irrespective of that advice, I was intrigued by the offer to let the CBC do the story because I have long felt that the Church needs a better relationship with the media. On the other hand Jesus said, Woe to you when all men speak well of you. Well, you could argue that we are doing just fine then because there is no danger of that happening. Maybe I have been thrashed so many times I have just become numb to it all, but we decided to give it a go. We invited Donna into our ranks to see what we were doing. It seemed to me that she was genuinely impressed with the manifold activities of a church like ours. She was completely blown away by a group of our young people, who instead of heading to Banff to ski on their spring break, were heading to Mexico on a 42 hour van ride to work in an orphanage and a home for women that are recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.
She also did a piece on our ESL (English as a second language) class, where free of charge and without strings attached, new Canadians come to our building to learn English. Donna also visited ‘Overcomers in Christ’ which ministers to those who are overcoming drug, alcohol, pornography, gambling and other addictions. She interviewed ‘Isaac’ who was hopelessly addicted to porn and through God’s grace and ‘Overcomers’ he is walking totally free today. She asked me why we even let people like this in the church. After I finished chuckling I told her the day we didn’t let sinners into the church, was the day we would need to close our doors because I would be the only one there (yes, she knew I was joking about the very last part).
The first 4 programs were generally accurate and very positive in nature. And sure, they pulled the most controversial audio clips from our program. They particularly zeroed in on my Michael Jackson jokes. If a late night talk show host told them they would be hilarious, but because a pastor told them many said they were mean-spirited and had some sort of hidden social commentary. The CBC had lots responses on both sides of the ledger.
Some of the CBC faithful called foul and were appalled that they would run such a positive story about such a terrible, bigoted, sexist, racist and hate mongering church. These of course, are the very listeners that needed to hear this series. They are the people that don’t know anything about us. They don’t know that we have more women on staff and leadership than we do men. They also don’t know that approximately 10% of our congregation come from a Native background. They have no idea that we are probably the most multi-racial church in Winnipeg… not to mention that 1/3 of our budget goes out of our building to reach people in other nations and of other cultures, and that we are a church that is founded on the very principle of loving our neighbours and as well as our enemies. But never mind that, because you will always have free wheeling, uninformed people that will just throw labels at you. Which in my mind is the very lowest form of debate. Rather than addressing the ideals, you merely brand your opponents with some disparaging label and in doing so you dismiss them and any reasonable position they might hold. As I mentioned elsewhere it is also known as argumentum ad hominem, where you impugn the character of your opponent to try to dismiss their position as invalid.
I need to give Donna Carierro full credit. She did four days of fair minded, lively and informative coverage on the church. I know she would have taken abuse for doing this kind of story but she honoured her word to me that she was not out to get us. On day five however the story turned negative and Donna was nowhere to be heard. So called experts that do not know me or anything about us offered their completely uninformed commentary. BTW, one comment during Part 5 makes it seem like I was invited to participate in that mornings discussion, but they were referring to different forum entirely. At any rate I wasn’t upset about it. Honest reporting should always include the counterpoint. I get that. In fact, to be completely honest, it was actually laughable. They were so inarticulate that they barely made sense. At any rate the audio clips are below and you can draw your own conclusion as to whether we built significant bridges to our community, or were just dancing with the devil.