The Media Industry: Lion’s Den or Basket of Kittens?

As part of our series of panel and networking events titled Life in Babylon: Stories from the Lion’s Den, Mark Woods from Christian Today, shares on his experience as a panellist at our Bristol edition and his reflections on the points made.

‘In the lions’ den’ – an evening exploring what it was like to work in the media as a Christian. Behind it lay the commonly accepted idea that the media was a hostile environment for Christians, and I genuinely wondered whether I’d make a mistake in accepting the invitation. I work for Christian Today, an online Christian news magazine, and all my colleagues are Christians. It’s lovely: we have a very clear sense of doing something for God, and once a week the local vicar comes in and leads prayers for us. Hardly a lions’ den, more a basketful of kittens.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realised some of those kittens had sharp claws. Faith is at the roots of people’s identity. It’s not just a matter of life and death, but life and eternity, and Christians are capable of behaving extremely badly if they think that faith is being compromised in some way. So yes, I did have something to bring to the table.

So did the other speakers at Bristol’s Square Club on Monday. There was – Dave Neal, a film-maker who taught wildlife documentary skills; Justin Walford, a lawyer for the Sun, and Jay Moussa, a film director and vlogger. It was a relaxed and informal evening chaired by screenwriter James Cary (Miranda, Bluestone 42), with an audience of around a dozen.

At times the discussion was more like a bit of biblical exegesis – are we all, in fact, exiles in Babylon? Is Babylon inherently and irredeemably wicked? Well, not quite. One of the refreshing things about it was how the ‘lions’ den’ idea was, in different ways, challenged. Yes, being a Christian matters – of course, and witnessing to Christ – appropriately – is a good thing. But there are good, honest and decent people in every part of the media. The idea that our Christian faith sets us on a different moral plane, or that we should see ourselves as beacons of righteousness in a sea of moral darkness, did not find favour.

However, we do have to make choices. Most people had stories to tell about moral dilemmas they’d faced and how they’d coped, but these are the sort of thing everyone faces, whether Christian or not. I’d hope the moral training we receive, or ought to receive, in our churches gives us a bit more of an edge when it comes to making the right decision; it should spring from a transformed character rather than a written code of ethics. But we’re all in it together, and an adversarial, holier-than-thou approach really doesn’t help anyone.

Among the contributions from the audience was an observation that the Church is very bad at telling the world about what it’s doing. I think that’s true, and I wish we could be better at it. But we won’t be if Christians think of the media as a lions’ den – a dark, smelly and dangerous place that they enter in peril of their souls. It’s just folks, really, and the more Christians there are in it the better.

Mark Woods is a Baptist minister who has worked in religious journalism for over 15 years, now as managing editor of the online news magazine Christian Today.  
Join us for the edition of Life in Babylon?: Stories from the Lion’s Den and grab your tickets here.
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