When I taught at the remarkable World Journalism Institute a few years ago, I routinely asked students at the beginning of a new class: "What do you think is the calling of a Christian in secular media?" Inevitably, several young men and women would reply, "To report the news from God's perspective."
Right? Wrong. It would be great if we knew God's cell number to ask him, "Lord, what are your views on immigration and social security?" Alas, we don't have this option. Thus from a Lutheran perspective, the proper response to the question about a Christian journalist's vocation must be: "I am called to report as fairly and as accurately as humanly possible. If I do this as a service of love to my readers and viewers, rather than with selfish interests in mind, I will render the highest possible service to God."
Luther would say that when Christians in secular journalism serve their readers and viewers altruistically, they prove themselves members of the universal priesthood of believers. A reporter on the police beat does not have the divine assignment to "share the gospel" with cops rushing out to arrest a mugger; indeed, trying to share the gospel with them would seem foolish when officers perform their own priestly function by nabbing criminals.
"Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him," writes the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 7:17). In our context, this means that a reporter does not have a calling to be a preacher, even though he or she might be a devout Christian. It also means that a journalist's vocation must not be confused with that of a prosecutor or a lobbyist, two self-aggrandizing roles many contemporary journalists slip into (which is one reason the media are ...1