Of course, the majority of the population no longer reads the Good
Book and has no idea what you are referring to when you use common
scriptural phrases that were familiar to most people for centuries.
So you are likely to find yourself in the same position that the
Rev. Jerry Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University, and Sen. Sam
Brownback of Kansas recently occupied after interviews with two
prominent media organizations.
A reporter for Newsweek recently
accompanied the Liberty University debate team to a tournament while
researching a piece -- amusingly titled "Cut, Thrust and Christ" --
on the storied evangelical school that consistently sits atop the
national debate rankings of all U.S. colleges and universities. She
interviewed some of the students, the coaches and Falwell,
naturally, to ferret out their secret weapon.
A story appearing in the Feb. 6 issue of the magazine quoted
Falwell describing -- and it appeared in large print in a pull
quote, no less -- the debate team's efforts as "an assault
ministry." How's that?
As a kid growing up in the Bible Belt, I performed my share of
"sword drills" -- that's speed-locating Scriptures. But I must have
missed the Marine Corps class in assault ministry tactics at
Quantico as a second lieutenant.
What Falwell had said, without a second thought at needing to
clarify, was that Liberty University's debate team represented "a
salt ministry," immediately understood by the biblically literate as
a reference to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, in which he states that
his followers are "the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13). Salt. A
flavorful seasoning that cures or preserves.
In this strife-torn world, terrorized by religious extremists who
take their perceived mandate to dominate the earth into the streets
-- burning, ravaging and killing as they vilify those who dare to
mock their prophet -- our ears are more attuned to war metaphors
than to the parables and simple word pictures of the teacher who
told us to love our enemies.
Newsweek's wasn't the only recent journalistic gaffe involving
scriptural ignorance. Rolling Stone, that bastion of political
correctness, embarrassingly misinterpreted Brownback's statement in
reference to the gay marriage debate, specifically in Sweden:
"You'll know them by their fruits." That's another biblical quote
drawn from that same long passage of red words Jesus spoke to the
multitudes -- this in the seventh chapter of Matthew's Gospel. Jesus
was warning against "false prophets," declaring they would identify
themselves by their false fruit ("Grapes are not gathered from thorn
bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?").
[to top of second column]
Naturally, pundits and gay activists took full advantage of this
media moment to climb atop their soapboxes and jab at what they
perceived as a slurring reference to Swedish homosexuals as
"fruits," actually somewhat justifying that label. Meanwhile,
Christians, often portrayed by the media as simpletons who check
their brains at the church door, enjoyed a good belly laugh at the
expense of some witless wags. It was about time the tables were
Is there really any embarrassment in the mainstream media world
over these mistakes? Are Bibles being added to editorial reference
shelves? I doubt it. Expect to hear more bungling in the coming
years. One would think Mel Gibson's box-office behemoth, "The
Passion of the Christ," two years ago might have compelled more of
the media to read the Gospels. Apparently not. As a nation, we worry
more about science and math deficiencies than moral ones. Those who
know which fruit is worth gathering will need to hold the Fourth
Some of the Liberty University debaters are going on to become
journalists. Disclaimer: One of these future scribes is my pride and
joy, my firstborn. True, I have seen her in "assault" mode during
tournaments. What kind of "salt" these graduates will represent in
the world remains to be seen, but salt they must be if they
understand their commission. Hint: That's in Matthew's Gospel, too,
at the very end.
As for the Falwells and Brownbacks of the world, they might need
to consider hiring media wranglers armed with Bibles. The larger the
concordance, the better.
Debbie Thurman is a journalist and author writing from Monroe,
Va., where she also runs a ministry and a publishing company. Her
e-mail address is
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