“The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfil this role requires systematic propaganda.”
― Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
I have a love/hate relation ship with social media which, invariably, bleeds into my love/hate relationship for news media. However, sites, like Facebook, give me easier access to the news stories from the sources I trust more than most all in one place. It’s so hard to type in all the different URL’s or risk navigating away from the page I’m on. So, in my feed, I get to see updated news stories from The Young Turks, Al Jazeera America, Vice News, TED talks, and various bloggers whom I resonate with. There is, unfortunately, a few various downsides to this influx of information and the ability to share it.
Eventually, your friends will post something you don’t agree with or a news story that is obviously biased from the far right to the point of being absurd (like Fox News!). Don’t get me wrong; I love my conservative friends. On top of being really great people, they also give me a point of view to check my ego and my stances against. For someone as opinionated and skeptical of news sources as I, that’s a really good thing to have. I still think they’re wrong most of the time, though.
Once in a great while, though, something will come along that will inflame my sensibilities so much I can’t help but react. Granted, it’s a huge waste of my time, ability, and intelligence to argue with someone over the internet but there are a few things I cannot abide. Some of my more infamous “conversations” lately have been over open carry, concealed carry, and things as recent as the defunding of planned parenthood. Things get pretty heated sometimes but I’ve learned to step away when it just turns into a game of rochamebeau.
Recently, there was a clip of megachurch pastor Matt Chandler from The Village Church going on a six minute tirade calling abortion murder and seemingly vilifying anyone who would consider such a decision. I was floored at first because it was just so vicious and vitriolic I felt sick. There was an ache in my chest because it didn’t feel right; there was something missing from the message. Here’s the clip I saw:
Granted, there is plenty of what he says that is true and good information. But, as I said, it’s missing something. Questions started popping up in my head, the greatest of which was, “How does this message exalt and explain the love of Christ to someone who has made the choice to abort a pregnancy in her past? The size of his congregation matched with the statistics of abortions in the us guarantees there is someone like that sitting in a chair in that building or in one of the satellite locations around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. This seemed like the kind of actions I’d expect from Fundamentalist nut jobs like Steven Anderson in Tempe, AZ.
Then I saw who was pushing the message out. One of the big ones was the Gospel Coalition, a group of people who are ardently trying to spread the Gospel, acting as a resource for church plants and pastors. I’ve had my issues with the tactics of this group before, mostly because their council includes the culturally inept and John Calvin worshiping Jon Piper and, up until his forced resignation, the browbeating tough guy pastor Mark Driscoll. When I saw they had posted this six minute clip, I started to put the pieces together.
I realized I was being fed propaganda to support the agenda of the religious right as a means of fortifying the anti-abortion stance for all those who would take what they were fed without thought. Don’t get me wrong. I believe life begins at conception and abortion is not a means of birth control; actions still have consequences though I may vote pro-choice. Just like things like drugs, alcohol, or firearms, if you make them illegal people will find other, and usually more dangerous, means of obtaining whatever it is they want. It’s a tragedy that a baby’s life is ended before it has the chance to see the outside of the womb, but it’s even more tragic when the mother dies as well because of inadequate training, equipment, or sterility of environment because she had to resort to some backroom clinic. All life is equally sacred which, incidentally, why I’m against the death penalty. I’m pro-life in the cradle-to-grave by conviction as well. If that’s inconsistent to you, too bad.
So, I did some looking into this particular message because I knew there had to be more to the sermon than what felt like stereotypical angry Christian rhetoric. I found video of the entire sermon, found the point where Matt goes off in the six minute clip then found something interesting at the 30:49 mark:
There! That was the Gospel truth and the compassion I was expecting and was not seeing in this clip that was being exalted by a bunch of my Christian friends. There was truth to that small snippet but, in a sermon that’s 50 minutes long, the message is lost and all you see is the righteous anger which just comes off as shaming when it’s not bookended with compassion in love. Like it says in Ephesians 4:13-16 [ESV]:
…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather,speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
This propaganda put forth by whomever thought six minutes of shaming people for the sins they committed, likely a Christian, seems to have forgotten this. That and the importance of context in media of any kind. It seems to me like an intentional act to bolster the stance of those who are violently pro-life. I’m a firm believer in the church getting involved in stopping abortion but not through blind faithfulness to a situation they’ve never had to experience. What a lot of people don’t realize the effect of content like this presented to the wrong person is dangerous not only to the souls of those who know what it’s like to make that decision to terminate a pregnancy but, presented to the wrong mind, can result in disastrous consequences and is as dangerous as any firearm:
A woman who bombed an abortion clinic called the police. She gives her reasons for what she did:
Before I got married, I got pregnant. Everyone told me that a fetus was just a little shapeless blob anyway, so I got an abortion.
Then, after it was too late, a friend gave me some literature one day showing how the baby developed at different stages. I never realized at that stage, a fetus is so much a baby that some of them have been born at that point and LIVED!
Well, you cannot imagine what that did to me, knowing I had not just had an “unwanted intra-uterine growth “removed” but had KILLED my baby! It just about ruined my life. Even today, several years later, I lay awake at night sometimes crying about it.
So maybe you can understand my reasons for doing what I did.”
Leonard Stern “Abortion Wars” The Ottawa Citizen Sun 28 May 2000
I guess the lesson in all of this is to be careful what you consume and be as skeptical as possible when presented with any kind of clip strongly supporting any stance. Do your research and save yourself from looking like a fool or, in this case, a woman-shaming misogynist. Remember everyone as an agenda, especially the church and that agenda runs the spectrum of far right to far left just like politics which is really sickening when you think about it. We, as the church, could be doing so much to be part of the solution but the majority of us are ardently stuck, and okay with, being part of the problem by approaching problems with their mouth instead of their heart.
Jesus never resorted to violence. Why? Because, if he did, he would not have been offering anything new.