I listened to the full CBC Tapestry interview with John Stackhouse the other day and have a few thoughts not necessarily on the content of the episode as much as the hope I have in Canadian media.
For a public-broadcaster, it’s no secret that the CBC skews left. I do, too, but that’s not the point. Everyone/entity skews one way or the other. That’s reality. It’s the willingness to fairly represent the other that should serve as the litmus test for whether they deserve our eyes and ears.
It’s become cliché by now that in most/many media representations of conservative Christianity, the secular/left media mostly gets it wrong. That they use the most outlandish, loud-mouthed, cringe-inducing, those living out on the fringes types, to represent the whole.
I’ve experienced this ad nauseum and have rolled my eyes way too hard way too many times. That’s why when I listened to Stackhouse and Kate Bowler on Tapestry, I was encouraged that media, or at least our beloved CBC, can still be trusted.
Stackhouse spoke on the theme of his book, “Can I Believe?” fielding challenging yet fair questions from host Mary Hynes that did not shy away from some of the very things Christianity traditionally gets dismissed for – human suffering; exclusivity; church historical track record; etc. He handled the questions well but the point is that the conversation was fair, non-dismissive and very respectful of Stackhouse and his views. (Huge props to Hynes for consistently treating her interviewees with the respect & dignity they all deserve, regardless of faith background.)
This interview was followed up with a testimonial of Bowler’s indirect experience with the prosperity gospel and her own personal suffering (a story similar to what she shared on a fantastic episode of The Bible for Normal People with Pete Enns not too long ago, for what it’s worth).
Here were two solid, reputable and respectable Christians being handed a very publicly-funded platform to communicate their convictions on the person of Jesus and his transforming work in their lives. What?! Just think about that for a second.
The Left media often gets criticized, rightly, for not representing conservative/faith-based views fairly but here is a brilliant example of that being turned on its head. Tapestry does this very intentionally and very consistently. I’ve listened for years now and they do this with all faith traditions (at least as far as I can tell, not being a member of other faith traditions it’s hard to assess fairly but I presume it’s consistent).
In teaching a recent course on media literacy, I was encouraged to learn this: virtually ALL of the world’s public broadcasting services are envious of how the CBC has consistently been able to receive public funding (70% in fact) yet maintain a healthy arms-length influence on the direction of its messaging.
Did you catch that? CBC is the envy of the world’s public broadcasters because they’re not strong armed into aligning with the funding political party in power. And like I said, CBC skews left – but that’s ultimately a reflection of the larger society more than a political party. And that’s a good thing: you want your publicly funded media to represent the public that funds it.
Also, I’ll note that Tapestry isn’t the only CBC program doing this. In fact, many are but one other that bears mentioning is the weekly call-in radio show, Cross Country Check-up. Iam Hanamansing and his producers consistently do this very thing, week after week as well – they don’t filter out views that aren’t in step with their own but rather give a voice & a level of respect and dignity evident in every interaction.
Programs like Tapestry and Check-up are inspiring and demonstrate the path forward that all journalism and media will need to get behind in order to regain the public’s trust and respect. I’d argue this isn’t the only option for media to survive, but in fact a requisite for society to survive as we continually navigate our media-saturated world.
I appreciate the CBC for their continued efforts toward this and I hope you do, too. Now, go and listen to the latest episode of Tapestry and appreciate it: Christianity may not have all the answers, but it may offer meaning, says professor!