Posts Tagged calling

How “Lou Grant” Ignited My Spiritual Call to Journalism

by Mark Wingfield | May 4, 2021 | Feature-Opinion

As a 19-year-old, I experienced a spiritual calling to journalism. And it happened while watching TV.

No, I wasn’t called to ministry by a televangelist. My calling came through the voice of Ed Asner, who in December 1980 was playing the role of a newspaper editor on the hit show, “Lou Grant.”

This show was a sequel to the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” with Lou Grant having moved from managing a TV station to managing a city newspaper.

The details of what happened in the particular episode that spoke to me are lost to time, and that doesn’t really matter anyway. Because what I heard through the TV wasn’t actually the voice of Ed Asner, it was to me the voice of God.

In an instant, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that when I returned from Christmas break to my freshman year at Oklahoma Baptist University, I was to change my major from piano performance to journalism. Which is exactly what I did.

I understood in that moment – with extreme clarity – that the calling to Christian ministry I had experienced as a seventh-grader on a youth group mission trip was a calling to tell the truth with the power of words.

I understood that journalism was a path to offer a prophetic voice, to expose society’s wrongs and extol society’s virtues. I knew I could make a difference.

Looking back 40 years later, was this seeming word from the Lord correct? I believe wholeheartedly that it was, even if it was simplistic enough to break through my 19-year-old brain.

To borrow a line from Barbra Streisand: “Can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line? If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we?”

Time has indeed rewritten many lines, but I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat. The reason why is contained in the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day: “Information as a Public Good.”

For me, journalism is a way to do good.

When we tell the stories of the voiceless, we’re doing a public good. When we tell the stories of the oppressed, we’re doing a public good.

When we tell the stories of those who give themselves for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the community, we’re doing a public good.

In this spiritual enterprise, I’ve led a charmed life. The worst I’ve had to deal with is angry letters or emails and only the occasional threat of a lawsuit.

The same cannot be said for many others who have answered the call to be truth-tellers in a world that loves lies.

Last year, 50 journalists worldwide were killed for their work, according to Reporters Without Borders. And two-thirds of those were killed in countries officially “at peace,” not at war.

Lou Grant also had it easy back in 1980 because most Americans then trusted the reliability of professional journalists, even if they didn’t like what was reported. That was before narcissistic public figures poisoned the well of American trust in order to prop up their self-serving lies.

Imagine a world, though, where journalists are not present to tell the truth, not allowed to explain what’s really going on. That’s a world of totalitarian dictatorship.

What we know now, though, that Lou Grant couldn’t have known, is the power of journalism to find a way out of the darkness even when kings and potentates try their best to stop it. Even when journalists are murdered or slandered or sidelined to keep the truth out.

Today, we the know the power of citizen journalists, ordinary people who use cell phone video and social media to document police abuse, racism and Capitol riots. We know the power of ordinary people who value truth and share it widely, even if taking on the role of journalist causes them to lose family and friends.

We know – beyond the shadow of a doubt – that truth will out. And we know that we who are Christians are called to that kind of truth-telling, whether we’ve been to journalism school or not.

So, this week, in honor of World Press Freedom Day, will you join me in answering the call to do what old-time Baptist newspaper editor E.S. James declared as his motto: “Tell the truth and trust the people”?

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week for World Press Freedom Day (May 3). The previous article in the series is:

Free Press Steers Society in Right Direction | Marv Knox

Mark Wingfield headshot

Executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global and the author of Why Churches Need to Talk About Sexuality.

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Pulling On My Genes – The Daily Cup

Pulling On My Genes
By Anonymous on Oct 04, 2016 09:26 pm

In our Epistle lesson this past Sunday, the Second Letter from Paul to Timothy, the writer commended Timothy for a faith “that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” So I’ve been reflecting on my own faith-genes.

My father was of uber-German heritage, and the Bachschmids were Lutheran as far back as I can see. His grandfather’s people came from a small Bavarian town in a region that was almost entirely Roman Catholic. I’ve often wondered how they happened to be so different from the rest of the region. When Rich and I walked through that town several years ago, we just happened on a sign, “Martin-Luther-Platz.” My people! Unfortunately, the church was not open to explore and learn more. But my father, one of 11 children in a family that knew hardship, had an unshakeable, generous, bold faith with deep roots. His unconditional love for me—often sorely tested—was my lesson in how God loves us.

My Hoosier mother was raised in the Disciples of Christ church but joined a Lutheran choir where she met my dad. They both became pillars of this D.C. church. I thought all families prayed and sang and worshipped as much as ours; I didn’t appreciate this blessing until much later. Mom always seemed to have someone under her wing who needed mending. In her final days, as she was dying, one of her last sentences was “I belong to the Church of Good Housekeeping.” While I laughed at the time, I’ve come to see that her life centered on the value of tending, loving and nourishing the faith of her family and her community. She was a good housekeeper, indeed.

My brother, my only sibling, carries the determined faith of our parents. In his mid-sixties, Ed started seminary studies and is now a vocational deacon in the Diocese of Virginia, serving his parish and two senior living facilities. He waited his whole life to finally fulfill his calling. He has never been happier. And it’s not surprising that I married a man from another church-pillar family that included several clergymen. It’s humbling that I have so much to live up to.

So why do I tell you this? I believe it is important to feed our faith memories, to remind ourselves of the shoulders on which we stand. I’m hoping that you might do this, too. And it’s not just our family of origin whose beliefs, passions and even doubts feed us. For me, it’s also my church family. I draw on the witness of Mary and Sam, on Carol, Stan and Linda. And many more. I cannot imagine what I might offer others if all I had to give was me.

We are, each of us, a mini-communion of saints. We have the faith of all who went before us beating in our veins, in our heart. Listen to it, giving us strength and courage. Times are difficult, but we are not alone.

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you.”Phillipians 1.

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