Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Devon Dick| Media bias against the Church?

Published:Thursday | February 2, 2017 | 2:02 AM

There appears to be a media bias against the Church, based on the coverage of competing events between Watch Night services and New Year's Eve balls. One New Year's Eve party got coverage of 15 pictures in The Gleaner but not one single picture or report from all the church services held on December 31, 2016.

This is strange, based on the TVJ smart board poll of December 31 which found that from the first five responses, four persons were going to church and the other one was staying home. This unscientific poll has merit when we consider the landscape.

In 1999, according to Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building, there were estimated to be 7,000 congregations in Jamaica. So, assuming that 50 persons attended a New Year's Eve worship service in each congregation, then there were 350,000 congregants at worship but not one picture or clip in the media from any of the 7,000 gatherings. How do we explain that?

It could be because the media is largely driven by the profit motive. The persons who sponsor New Year's Eve balls also advertise heavily in the media while the churches, by and large, are begging free advertisements, save and except for a few who broadcast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Furthermore, the Church is media shy and is afraid to let its light shine that God be glorified while businesses are always seeking a photo opportunity.

Additionally, the media is driven by the sensationalism and not necessarily substance. Therefore, the headline that 'dog bites man' is not news but 'man bites dog' is news. USA President Donald Trump, marketer extraordinaire, used the media expertly with statements to get coverage and made him the talking point and the eventual winner.

Another problem with the media is that politics trumps religion most times. Therefore, whenever there is a church service, even a funeral service, and a politician is there, we will hear about the message from the politician and not the preacher.

And it is not just the preacher who suffers but sometimes the businessman. In November, the PSOJ celebrated its 40th anniversary with a banquet with the Honourable Dennis Lalor, former president and founder of ICWI, as the guest speaker. It was an excellent speech and no one can successfully accuse him of being a churchman but his message of moral fortitude got no coverage. But if a politician said the same thing then chances are, it would have been front page.

 

Surprising

 

It is perhaps surprising that The Gleaner would not have covered the religious event of Watch Night services, bearing in mind that The Gleaner has a religion and family section on Saturdays and RJR does midday meditations. But part of the problem is that media tend to compartmentalise religion. For many, religion should be personal only and concern itself with dedicating babies, marrying couples and burying the dead and a few good works. Religion is not seen as a way of life that affects every aspect of life, including politics and economics. It is a failure to grasp that religion is about life and informs one's outlook on life, attitude to life and behaviour in life.

Therefore, one cannot understand the Honourable Bob Marley's reggae songs outside of his Rastafarian faith, or former heavyweight boxing great Muhammad Ali outside of his Muslim faith, or National Hero Rt Excellent Paul Bogle outside of his Christian faith. So many would have missed the point of renowned thinker, Dr Burchell Taylor, who in addressing the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast called for the virtues of compassion and humility to inform public policy.

The media needs a greater appreciate of that understanding of religion and extend coverage accordingly.

PS: Condolences to the founding pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church, the Reverend Luther Gibbs, CD, whose wife, Beryl, will be buried today.

- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.