Sunday, July 03, 2016

getting out of the way

CNN does it. Amanpour and Anderson. Blitzer and Burnett. Cooper and Church. And that is just the ABCs - it keeps going all the way to Zakaria. The BBC does it as well, starting with Alagiah and Amroliwala. And please, please don't get me started on Fox News...

When these channels take a break in the middle of a news broadcast, the viewer is subjected to a steady stream of slick, short promotions for their own news programmes, with a focus on the host. Those set aside to point the way to the news become the news themselves. News readers are recast as news makers. They are portrayed as courageous, attractive, articulate and wise. How can we not be impressed by them - and in so doing, help birth a celebrity before our very eyes?! And yet watch them do their core job - interviewing - and it is uncanny how often they talk too much and give their opinion too often. They intrude too far into the story. The window on the world they are meant to provide easily becomes obstructed by a mirror. I wish they'd get out of the way.

An odd variation of this phenomenon lies in my home country of New Zealand. Again and again, I visit online news websites at home (like NZ Herald or Stuff) - only to find news readers sitting there in the headlines for no real reason at all. Hosking. Henry. Barry. It is embarassing. What are they doing there? I don't really want to be a Kiwi in these moments. Earlier this week came a new low point (and possibly the source of this post!) ... as this piece was the blaring headline on the NZ Herald home page. Goodness deary me?! What is going on?! And don't tell me it is a trivial issue. Over time the media is quietly massaging the mind with silly vacuous messages likes this one and the appetite for real news, serious news diminishes. Moreover, in loving to look at itself in the mirror like this, there is both a betrayal of their calling and the small matter of being an accomplice in establishing narcissism, with all its attendant complexities, as a new norm for society.

What a different story emerges when it comes to presenting the news of Jesus Christ. The Bible will condone none of the nonsense above. It has such a diverse vocabulary to describe the vocation of announcing and hosting and broadcasting and heralding and anchoring the (good) news. Stewards. Servants. Heralds. Witnesses. It goes on and on. What do these words all have in common? The news reader never becomes the news maker. The host never becomes the focus. None of these identities is about drawing attention to themselves. There is no mirror in the room. The impulse for self-denial eclipses the narcissistic one. As I heard Emmanuel, from Burundi, express it so eloquently: 'the mouth may be ours, but the message is God's.'
A Christian communicator has to learn that he (sic) cannot present himself as a great preacher and teacher if he also wants to present God as a great God and Christ as a great Saviour. (Packer)
Humility is not a state to be struggled for and achieved; it is not so much diminishing our self-importance as it is simply standing next to Jesus ... This towering Jesus, by sheer contrast, will always displace our self-importance. (Miller)
Humility is not thinking less of myself - but thinking of myself less. (Keller)
He must increase; I must decrease. (John the Baptist)
The most privileged and moving experience a preacher can have is when, in the middle of the sermon, a strange hush descends upon the congregation. The sleepers have woken up, the coughers have stopped coughing, and the fidgeters are sitting still. No eyes or minds are wandering. Everybody is attending, though not to the preacher. For the preacher is forgotten, and the people are face to face with the living God, listening to his still, small voice ... (then, quoting Billy Graham) 'I have often felt like a spectator, standing on the side, watching God at work. I have felt detached from it. I wanted to get out of the way as much as I could and let the Spirit take over.' (John Stott)
nice chatting

Paul

4 comments:

Geoff New said...

One of my favourite quotes in this regard is from James Denning: "No preacher can at the same time convince his [sic] congregation that he is clever and Christ is wonderful."

Paul Windsor said...

Yes, that does say it concisely, doesn't it?

Thanks, Geoff. I did check around a bit. One source has 'Denning', but I think it is James Denney who write the famous book on the Cross.

SMax said...

Or this, for the preacher:
Newton to Wilberforce - “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.” (movie version)

Paul Windsor said...

Yes, indeed, SMax - a most appropriate quotation for this discussion.