Should mainstream, secular media ridicule Christianity? What does ridiculing a Christian organisation or religious person have to do with the persecution of Christians? Is there a link between an irrational hatred for Christians and Christianity and a campaign in the media to ridicule and smear them? We explore these questions in this article.
CH Spurgeon once said, "The more prominent you are in Christ's service, the more certain are you to be the butt of calumny. I have long ago said farewell to my character. I lost it in the early days of my ministry by being a little more zealous than suited to a slumbering age. And I have never been able to regain it except in the sight of Him who judges all the earth, and in the hearts of those who love me for my work's sake."
Many Christians and Christian organisations will agree with Spurgeon and countless have stories to tell about how secular media ridicule Christians and Christianity. Two good examples are the articles which were published by News24 (links below). News24 also launched an attack on the KwaSizabantu Mission and these attacks were exposed by Noseweek in the video series, REVELATION: How News24 got it wrong. It is also demonstrated in the book, A Journey to the Truth: The Case of KwaSizabantu Mission.
MEDIA ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANITY
There are different kinds of persecution. One kind (direct) refers to the explicit killing, kidnapping, or execution of people for their faith. It includes instances where churches and Christian symbols are destroyed, among other horrible acts.
Indirect persecution includes actions such as harassment, intimidation, shunning by friends or family opposed to the gospel, blasphemy, and mocking of Christianity. But there is another dangerous kind, the silent (indirect) and less obvious one, disguised as culture and modernity or progress. It includes media misrepresentation of Christian organisations and news articles that spread disinformation about Christian individuals, groups, or Christianity as a whole.
A smear campaign or simply smear in the media is one example of negative propaganda that the secular media sometimes uses to discredit Christians or a Christian organisation. These tactics are commonly used to undermine effective arguments. And there is a huge concern about how religion and belief are portrayed by mainstream media.
The media is a consumer-driven industry. It has a huge reach in society and is a key filter through which consumers learn about other people, cultures, religions, and beliefs. Mass media plays a definite role in shaping collective identities and intergroup attitudes. By typecasting them or, in other words, assigning a value of a certain type to another type, they distort the picture that audiences see of different groups or individuals.
There is enough evidence to suggest skewed media representations promote public hostility toward a certain group. Missionaries, for instance, are a people group regularly targeted by secular media and often labelled cults because they either look, speak, or act differently from the rest of the secular world.
Social media platforms are just some of the effective tools used by people with agendas to spread false news at the speed of light about Christians and Christian organisations in their efforts to discredit the largest faith on earth. Critics of Christianity use and elaborate on stories (many times false) of corruption, abuse, violence, and countless other negative practices to try and discredit Christians in general and ultimately the Christian faith.
Many Christian organisations have been attacked in recent times, and you can read about it elsewhere in this issue. The KwaSizabantu Mission is but one example of a Christian organisation which became a target of media abuse. Studying this case provides me with the opportunity to use it as an example to prove my point about the persecution of Christianity in general.
THE KWASIZABANTU CASE
Following an extensive onslaught by News24, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) started investigating the allegations in November 2020. On 13 July 2023, the Commission released its findings and found that in terms of the church’s doctrines and cults’ practices, “the teachings, principles, rules, (doctrines) of the Mission are within the scope of freedom of religion.” The chairperson, Prof Mosoma, also said during the press conference when the findings were released, that KwaSizabantu displays no qualities of a cult and that the media abused the word ‘cult’. Read more about the CRL’s findings in Issue 38 of Devoted by following the link: https://online.pubhtml5.com/asxvv/ddze/
It is no secret that some individuals and churches fail to represent the life of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity. We all had bad experiences with so-called Christians who did not walk the talk. But that does not mean the entire Christian faith should be questioned, ridiculed, or attacked.
In a world where misinformation and bias can sway public opinion, it is crucial to scrutinise how religious groups are portrayed in the media. We must continue to advocate for fair and accurate representation. At Devoted, we will do our part by continuing to share uplifting stories about Christians and Christian organisations with the world. The media should aim to work for greater religious literacy and foster a better understanding and representation of all religions in media coverage.
NOTE: The writer of the article, Gerda Potgieter, released a book, A Journey to The Truth, the case of KwaSizabantu Mission. Gerda is a seasoned communicator and exposed unethical journalism in the book after researching unethical media practices, with specific references to the case of the Christian Mission. This series demonstrates how news consumers should be on the lookout for the red flags of unethical journalism. Journalists and future news reporters can learn from the series. The book is available on Amazon: eBook - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CC2V989F The book can also be bought from Christian Liberty Books in Cape Town.
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