This week someone sent me a photo of a woman poolside in her bathing suit reading WORLD magazine. It was heartening, especially because that reader is a busy mother of many children. But for a moment it made me want to be a reader (and preferably by a pool), not an editor at her desk.
Sometimes I wonder, who are you readers, anyway? While we are assigning and compiling stories about war and injustice and oppression and poverty fighters and small people taking on big government, what are you doing? And where do our separated lives come together? As journalism teacher Simran Sethi says, our journalistic task isn’t to bombard you with facts, because these days “people choose facts that connect with things they already believe in.”
The trick, for a journalist who takes seriously his Christian worldview, is to assemble facts in a way that’s true, that’s compelling from the standpoint of both heaven and earth, and that respects a reader made in God’s image. In other words, we don’t want to simply play on emotions or rest on stereotypes, or our own biases—like Michael Weisskopf’s infamous Washington Post epithet declaring evangelicals “poor, uneducated, and easy to command.” We don’t need to look down on others in order to hold a high view of what we do.
And so I’m always glad to hear from readers and to learn how we are connected. Needless to say we miss, and mess up (never, never call a Marine a “soldier,” or expect a barrage of mail if you do). But you readers may not appreciate how the connection keeps us editors ticking.
The connections, I’m happy to report, span the globe. Here’s a sampling of recent ones to come across my desk:
Mona Hennein wrote to tell us about the documentary she’s producing on Christians living in Egypt. She thought it was “close to complete,” she said, until Egypt had another revolution. But the story for Mona is personal too—turns out her parents were the first Egyptian Presbyterian missionaries sent to Sudan 60 years ago. Mona’s story is about the coming of age of two Muslim nations, and her family’s Christian legacy among them. And through her I’m learning more about missionary movements that didn’t start in America. Imagine.
Lionel Roosemont is a trusted pen pal, a pro-life advocate and tour guide in Belgium I’ve written about before (“European war zone,” May 5, 2012). He wrote me this week to share impressions of America from abroad. In Russia, Germany, and elsewhere, the United States is now called “the New Evil Empire” for its disregard for children, traditional marriage, and families. “I do not want to be negative about your magnificent country,” he writes, “but I remember how 30 or 40 years ago the U.S. government would regularly send out strong statements and take strong action against governments who were actively persecuting Christians,” something no longer evident to those living abroad. This, he said, is “not meant as finger pointing … to my deep sadness, my own country Belgium is doing worse.”
A note came from a surgeon just returned from a working stint in Africa but troubled enough over the lack of general surgeons in one particular area that he’s thinking of turning around to go back. He’s looking for volunteers.
Another reader wrote to tell me of the death of Emmanuel Reed Manirakiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who died in a Kigali swimming accident. “Emma,” as he was known far and wide, was to be her son’s freshman roommate at the University of Rochester. Last year in a speech to the African Leadership Academy, Emma said, “Stories allow us to imagine and live momentarily the lives of others. And thereafter set a different course and perspective for the life we seek to live.”
I’m often asked how we find story ideas. The truth is our readers are some of our best sources. We at WORLD exist to tell the stories of what God is doing in the world. But it turns out you do, too.