Let’s face it: the church has a serious image problem. The blessing of mass media has swiftly been usurped by the ability for any yahoo, myself included, to publish thoughts and opinions for the entire world to read and discuss. It may be that technology has moved faster than what any of us are able to manage, maintain, and manipulate to send the majority message.
Tuesday Associated Press reported about Tony Alamo, an evangelist who took advantage of young girls and in the name of Jesus sexually abused them and ‘married’ several who had not reached the age of 15. It caught the attention of international media and was reported on the internet, television, and print news. I do not know what group of people agreed that this man was actually a messenger from the same God that I worship, but his “ministry” was worth millions (in fact former charges were filed by the IRS claiming that he owed the government $7.9 million).
This “evangelist” was given a megaphone by the media.
The problem with the megaphone is that individual people are heard above the crowd. Well, that is also the benefit of the megaphone. Mass media in all its forms is really morally ambiguous, meaning that it is not in essence right or wrong. But when a person who is not representative of the larger group then the message and the foundation of that group can become altered, skewed, and distorted.
It is not only in the area of faith. Take the idea of politics. Have you noticed how much trouble the Obamas are getting into for things like what artwork is in the oval office, the queen being touched on her back, and tripping into the Italian embassy? These small gestures and missteps are not only news, but they become offensive and color the way that an entire nation and world see the leader of the country.
Let’s face it again: the church has a serious image problem. It is obvious that the megaphone is not working. Standing against statements made about the church and Christians only makes us look defensive or gives us the illusion of being on attack. Megaphones may be loud, but they may not necessarily be the most effective form of communication.
The alternative: “inside” voices in polite and individual conversation. If every person in the country had a positive relationship with a Christian, how likely would it be that anyone would believe the loud and obnoxious? A completely different impression of trust and reliability can be developed in a close relationship. It would be as if we were watching a movie when we see the evening news because no one would be able to imagine someone behaving that way and professing Christ.
Some may argue that Jesus spoke to large crowds, and he did. It was not only a different time; megaphone were not as loud and numerous until the invention of the printing press and the microphone. If you pay attention he only really kept the essence of his teaching for his disciples.
Put down the megaphone and engage in conversation with those around you. To quote Dr. Seuss: “Even the smallest person can change the world.”