They’re Not Prosperity Preachers, Are They?
Why Christian News Media Need a Major Disruption
My name is Nicola A. Menzie.
I am a Christian and a religion reporter. I am also a black woman. These aspects of my identity are important, to me and to my story.
I used to work for a Christian news site whose main editorial directors/decision-makers were Asian and white. A few years ago, perhaps mid-way through my four years there, someone decided that the publication would do a series on “pastors under 40.” I was perplexed when I saw the list of candidates that had been decided on by the lead editors. It had a total of five white men.
It turned out that the default collective perspective of the publication’s editorial directors meant that it would actually be a “white male pastors under 40” series.
How could this be?
But, it got worse. Or so it seemed.
After few hours of compiling a shortlist of black men (I had assumed, with good reason, that women pastors just weren’t going to make the cut), I emailed their names with a line or two of biographical information about each one to an editorial director. The response?
“Can you confirm if these suggested people are all orthodox (no prosperity preachers)? I’m not familiar with them so I can’t tell off the bat.”
Huh? “I’m not familiar with them, but I’m assuming they are prosperity preachers,” is essentially how I interpreted the comment about the list of black preachers I submitted for coverage.
My assumption, of course, could have been completely off base. Perhaps the editorial director had not clicked on the included links and saw that these men were all black.
And it’s true, there seems to be a lot of preachers pushing health-and-wealth teachings nowadays — but the leading proponents of the controversial prosperity gospel are mostly white, as were its founders.
While black preachers are apparently suspect, Asian, Latino and Native Americans are invisible in many Christian media, and even more so in the mainstream press. When it comes to women, forget about it (for the most part) — this is essentially what I’ve observed and tried to push against in my own editorial choices over the last four years writing about U.S. (Evangelical) Christians.
There’s very little room to discuss sexuality (unless it’s to blast homosexuality) and abortion (unless it’s to insist, only, that it must not be done). There is very little room, period, for diversity of Christian thought and tradition (unless it’s to brand people as “heretics”). And let’s not talk about #BlackLivesMatter (that’s “race baiting”).
I would like to push against that trend of Christians of color, Christian women and non-cookie cutter conservatives and Evangelicals and the issues they care about being assigned to the sidelines of Christian and secular media.
The publication’s cornerstones are counter-culturalism (not dictated by the values and interests of the dominant culture), transculturalism (celebratory of all cultures and ethnicities), and inclusiveness (comprehensive in scope). The motto is simple: “news, culture and Christianity.”
The website that I have up now is not the one I envision having up 5–6 months from now. But it’s a start.
Here are some examples of the kinds of stories Faithfully Magazine wants to produce on a consistent basis:
- Meagan Good Cries at One Church LA After Being Asked to ‘Cover Up’
- Evangelical Leader Says This ‘Idol’ Separates White Christians From God
- NYC Church That Embraces LGBT Believers Says Conversation Is Long Overdue
- Churches ‘Shamed’ Into Showing Up for Daniel Holtzclaw’s Victims, Pastor Says
- (White) Evangelicals Flocking to Donald Trump?
I’m also hoping Faithfully Magazine can serve as a bridge builder of sorts, by being a platform that helps make it easier for Christians of different traditions, ethnicities and values to actually talk with each and not so much at each other.
There is more than enough evidence behind my conviction that Faithfully Magazine and its vision are desperately needed.
Executing the vision, of course, is the hard part.