Damned if you do …
Newspapering is a fickle business. One day we get comments recommending our paper, like this one:
“Great way to keep up with the happenings of Marion. Plus the circus that you call a commissioner meeting is like having a comic strip in the paper. Commissioner Novak reads like Mr. Magoo.”
The very next day, from the same exact reader, we get the letter to the editor appearing below, accusing us of incompetence for not letting a person involved in a news story block its publication.
We’re very sure commissioner Dianne Novak would enjoy the same censorship rights the letter writer would accord to pastor Jeff Lee.
But therein lies our problem: If the only news we covered were the news that the people involved wanted us to cover, we no longer would be the great way to keep up with happenings that our letter writer told us we were.
We’re not about to weigh in on the topic he wrote about — how churches interpret the Bible. That’s a matter of faith, not fact. But we will point out that there are some interesting prohibitions in the Bible that even the strictest denominations don’t accept.
Exodus 23:19 forbids us to eat cheeseburgers or anything else that mixes meat and dairy. Leviticus 3:7 forbids us to eat fat, Leviticus 11:7-8 forbids us to eat pork, and Deuteronomy 12:21 forbids us to eat any aquatic animal, like lobsters, without fins or scales.
David Copperfield and Penn and Teller can’t get past Exodus 22:16 and its prohibition on practicing magic, and a great number of callers to various psychic hotlines can’t get past the ban on psychics, mediums, and spiritualists in Leviticus 20:27.
Most of us, including this writer, violate Exodus 20:10 by working on the Sabbath from time to time. One wonders how many farmers have planted more than one kind of seed in a field, an act prohibited by Leviticus 19:19, or how many of us have worn clothing of more than one kind of cloth, also forbidden by the same verse.
We’re pretty sure butchers, veterinarians, and some farmers have violated the prohibition in Deuteronomy 14:8 about touching the dead carcass of a pig, and we suspect almost everyone has violated Leviticus 19:27 and its prohibition on cutting hair on the sides of our heads or clipping the edges of our beards.
A few prohibitions — like women not being allowed to speak in church — even come from the seemingly less forbidding New Testament (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).
We would never presume to tell anyone — Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, all three of which share most of the same prohibitions in their holy texts — which should be taken literally and which have a more symbolic or sophisticated meaning that we, as mere mortals, haven’t figured out or somewhere along the line have managed to misinterpret.
But we hope that those concerned about whether we prematurely reported the Aulne church’s pending disaffiliation consider a similar conundrum we face in deciding whether to publish all the news or only the news that some people want us to publish.
We don’t have divine enough inspiration to want to be in the position of picking and choosing whether people are proud or ashamed of what they are doing or whether they want to delay announcing something controversial until after they have lined up a bunch of spin to hide the real reasons.
So whenever anyone does something that seems to be of interest in our community, we look into it on your behalf and report what we find.
We try to ask everyone and get all the sides. It’s then up to you to decide what, if anything, to do with that information and how to think about it.
Personally, we hope one of the things you’ll think about from last week’s paper is whether we as a community can do a better job of communicating during crises.
This week, we hope you’ll think about how much of the windfall the county will be getting from a new wind farm is going to end up in the pockets of lawyers defending the county against yet another lawsuit.
You may applaud the Aulne church for, as our letter writer put it, not “spiraling down the path to hell.” Or you may worry, as others might, that a big part of Christianity involves show acceptance and love for people who are different from us.
But at least you know what’s going on and may, if you want, be able to do something about it — either encouraging or discouraging — before it’s too late.
It’s our job to inform. It’s yours to think and act. For better or worse, that’s the holy scripture of newspapering.
— ERIC MEYER