Catholic media group focuses on stories that are uplifting
Dr Glenville Ashby, Contributor
Oftentimes, I have heard that God is love. It took some time to understand its significance but my recent interaction with the Christophers clarified and reinforced my belief in a world defined by peaceful coexistence.
Over the years, I have become used to the hubris and sophistry of many religious leaders - their creed, their interpretation of the Bible, the Quran or other sacred books are taught with a sense of self-righteousness.
I always remain calm, the words of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, ringing in my ear: "You have your way, I have my way, but for the correct way, the right way, the only way, it does not exist."
Leaving the office of the Christophers in Hanover Square in downtown Manhattan, I felt optimistic but disappointed that the good in the world is seldom, if ever, featured in the mainstream media.
We are fascinated with mayhem, mishaps, terror and tragedy. The media has felt our pulse and continues to feed our insatiable appetite for the unsavoury.
The Christophers is the antithesis. Driven by the motto: "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness," this Catholic media group was founded by Father James Keller in 1945.
His was a message of faith in action and of personal responsibility. It was a theme that resonated with Hollywood stalwarts such as Bob Hope and Jack Benny, and influenced Joan Ganz Cooney, the creator of Sesame Street.
In an hourlong interview, I spoke with Toni Rossi, its communications director. He is unrepentantly Catholic and has had his faith shaken on several occasions, but says, "Doubt is a companion on the road to faith."
Rossi believes that thousands of people perform inspirational deeds on a daily basis. It is his job to feature these 'Samaritans' on the group's multiple-media platforms that include print, radio, podcast, and online blogging.
In essence, the Christophers is a media apostolate or Catholic media organisation. "The media is the most important medium for personal and social transformation," he said. The term 'Christopher' means Christ bearer, and was chosen for a sound reason.
"We are the bearers of goodness in the world. A lot of the conflicts that are raging on a small or large scale can be tempered if we practise humility and respect the dignity of every person. We cannot dehumanise others because they don't think the way we do."
Rossi's role is to interview and feature inspirational stories of selfless duty that go unnoticed. Interestingly, he refrains from asking interviewees their religious leanings, noting that "everyone is a child of God".
Rossi stressed the importance of seeking out the good in books, movies and television programmes.
"Not all that Hollywood produces should be condemned. Although we are Christians, there is a tremendous amount of inspirational stories by people of all faiths.
He related a story of a retiree who devoted the rest of his life caring for paralysed women.
"These are the stories that will not make the front pages of our newspapers, that's why our work is so important," said Rossi.
He recalled a woman who was bitter because her friend was murdered. However, she learned to forgive after listening to Rossi's interview with a survivor of the Rwanda genocide who refused to let hatred devour her although her relatives were slaughtered.
These are the stories that lead to healing and self-transformation. This is the raison d'Ítre of the Christophers' existence.
Rossi's group avoids politics, preferring to "call people to introspection and goodness."
He baulked at confronting controversial issues such as an abortion and prefers to highlight alternative choices for women contemplating an abortion.
NO BENEFIT IN JUDGING
"There is no benefit in castigating and judging others," he noted.
The Christophers publish an annual book of 365 inspirational stories and confers awards to authors, Hollywood movies and TV network programmes.
The group is self-sufficient and relies on the donations from old donors and a burgeoning group of new individuals that are moved by their uplifting message. Monthly newsletters now reach thirty to forty thousand readers. "Our online presence has been a boon for us," Rossi conceded.
The group also offers workshops on leadership for teens and adults.
And in a metaphysical mode, Rossi stated that although evil persists in the world, compassion has kept us afloat and have prevented our annihilation.
"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness" reverberated as I left Rossi. It is a message of hope in a world mired in conflicts and engrossed in sensationalism.
Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @glenvilleashby Dr Glenville Ashby is the president of the Global Interfaith Council Corp