We could have done better

So in place of infallibility, we offer humility

Issue: "Spring Draining," April 12, 1997

Any publication worth its salt takes time now and then to stop and ask: Could we have done that a little better than we did it? The answer, almost always, is yes. We take our task seriously--but ourselves a little less so. When we can no longer acknowledge a few goofups in our work, we've come to think much more highly of ourselves than we ought to. So here are four specific examples of things WORLD could have done better:

(1) In the last three years, I have beat up pretty severely on the United States Postal Service. I've written more frequently, and more passionately, on a few other subjects--but not by much. It's as simple as this: If we can't deliver your copy of WORLD in timely fashion, we're out of business. So I've been angry, and I'm angry again this week, when I get reports that a number of you are still getting two issues of WORLD in the same mail, even though we mailed them a full week apart; or that you're getting WORLD a week or 10 days later than you should; or that there are issues you never got at all.

But this space is not to rail against the USPS. It is instead to acknowledge that within the Postal Service are hundreds of dedicated people--many of them WORLD subscribers--who work very hard and very long hours to cope with a system not of their making. Some of you USPS staffers have taken very personally my acid comments. But I do know what it is to butt your head against an unyielding system and to chafe in the middle of a stubborn bureaucracy. I should have been much more careful when I aimed my cannon.

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(2) I was also clumsy a few months back in my failure to make another distinction. In a column where my main point was to warn folks against putting traditional medical doctors on pedestals, I mentioned in passing the growing tendency of too many Christians to seek out practitioners of alternative medicine who root their work in New Age theories.

Dozens of you took my comments as suggesting that there is no merit in herbs, that homeopathic doctors are total quacks, and that acupuncturists are know-nothings. Indeed, I do believe too many Christians--often frustrated at the inability of traditional medicine to give them the answers they so much long for--have turned to superficial (if not phony) sources for help. But that is not the same as saying there is no validity at all to these approaches.

I firmly believe that God didn't create a single plant or herb without a purpose; my guess is that there's a remarkable linkage waiting out there between his creation and our good health. But that linkage should be made in sound, reasoned, and statistical fashion. It shouldn't be based on New Age mysticism--any more than traditional medicine should be based on man-centered humanism.

(3) Even before we get a flood of mail about the photo-cartoon of President Clinton in my column last week--the one with the Pinocchio nose--I should tell you that most of us here think in retrospect it was a good idea stretched just a little too far. "We do it with cartoons," we reasoned. "Why not with an edited photo?" Not until we had actually seen the finished product did we measure its effect, and make the decision from now on usually to leave caricature to the cartoonists.

(4) Nearly a year ago, we ran a story in WORLD about Growing Families International and its founders, Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo. The story, positive about some aspects of GFI's commendable work, also noted that GFI has received criticism. WORLD still stands by the fairness of the article and of our national correspondent, Roy Maynard. But we do regret misunderstandings about the Ezzos' ministry and teaching that have persisted since our story first appeared:

(a) Our headline, "The Ezzos know best: Controversial parenting curriculum is sweeping the church," and the coverline, "Does it take an Ezzo to raise a child?" put the article in a negative context. We are sorry. (b) The statement, "Instead of feeding babies when they are hungry (on demand), the Ezzos advocate feeding newborns every three hours," needs clarification. While the Ezzos do advocate routine feedings, they do not advocate withholding food from a hungry baby as this statement suggests. (c) The opinion that the Ezzos use the crucifixion of Christ to justify letting a baby cry is WORLD's conclusion and not necessarily representative of what they believe or teach. (d) The criticisms cited against the Ezzos' program were reported as opinion. Such opinions should be construed merely as WORLD's effort to report all sides of the issue fairly.

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