Much Ado About Nothing?

So some may be wondering – what’s the fuss over the article?  Is Bryan making a mountain out of a molehill?  Does anyone even read the Record-Eagle?  Is he always this whiny?

All good questions.

So let me explain just a bit… (indulge me – I have to get this off my chest.  For therapy.)

I wrote an article entitled: “Is God Dead?” for Holy Saturday.  The day Jesus is in the tomb, the day between Good Friday and Easter.  A day of sadness.  Of wondering.  Of hoping.  A day when such a question is appropriate to be asked.

I was really excited that our local newspaper was going to print this – on Holy Saturday.  Perfect.  The editor seemed genuinely excited as well.  My excitement in large part was over the title I had chosen – a legitimate question, not only on this day, but in these days, when more and more people are questioning the religious faith that they grew up with.  When more and more people are coming out as genuine atheists who don’t believe in God, and would answer the question in the affirmative.

In short, it was an article meant to draw in people from a number of perspectives, all with the opening provocative and serious question: “Is God Dead?”

My wife went and picked up a copy of the paper, and I ran to look at it when she walked in the door.   I opened it up, and instead of my title, saw this:

“My God is Bigger and Better than our current view of Him.”

Huh?  What?

I think I just threw up in my mouth

I was instantly deflated.  Angry.  Cheated.

I didn’t write that.  I didn’t say that.  I don’t like people who talk like that.

It might as well have said this:

My God can beat up your God

If someone showed up to a Pub Theology gathering and began a sentence, “My God is bigger and better than yours…”  I’m not even sure we would let them finish talking.  I detest when people talk that way.  But here is me, in print, looking to all the world to talk this way.  Misrepresented to our entire community.

I am a member of the Area Council On Religious Diversity (ACORD).  I can imagine my colleagues cringing when they saw the article.  I can imagine area clergy seeing that headline and saying, “What a presumptuous little…”  I can imagine others eating their Saturday breakfast opening up the paper and thinking, “Wow.  Another fundamentalist.  Great.”

In other words, the supplied headline gave exactly the opposite impression I was trying to make.

So you’ll have to forgive me for getting upset about this.  I’m not trying to make it a bigger deal than it is.  I really am not.  It’s just that I feel like I’ve been insulted in front of our whole community, by me!  It feels like slander, or worse.

OK, deep breath.

I do appreciate having a local newspaper where I can express my views.  The Record-Eagle is a great source for local perspectives provided by local contributors.  That’s where it’s value is, in my opinion, and I am honored that they allow me to contribute from time to time.

I just wish they had asked me first if they were going to change something – especially the most visible part of the article!

The article assumes the title.  It is a different article without it.  (But thanks to all who persevered to read it anyway!)

If they had asked, I would have been happy to suggest:

  • Is God Dead?  Grave Reflections for Holy Saturday
  • Is God Dead?  Exploring a legitimate question
  • Is God Dead?  Deconstructing our notions of the Divine

If they had only asked…

Words matter, and I guess next time I’ll consider just keeping them to myself.

There.  That wasn’t so bad.  I just needed to get this out of my system, so as one friend put it this morning, I can “let it go.”

I’ll do my best (or is it too late for that?)  🙂

(Clearly I am a broken, failing follower of Jesus.  He surely would  have just shrugged and moved on…  though if they had titled his “Sermon on the Mount”, “Long-winded Blatherings that are Hard to Follow and Won’t End”, perhaps he would have struggled to turn the other cheek as well!)


5 thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing?

  1. Brian,
    Having spent most of my career in the newspaper business (although on the other side of the wall – in advertising) I can understand how you must feel. Unfortunately this happens a lot in the newspaper business. One suggestion I have for you though is to try to make a follow-up connection with someone at the paper. First of all, whoever wrote the headline – usually a mid-level editor, probably has no clue of what you were actually trying to convey. There is an opportunity here to clear up some ‘fundamental’ (pardon the pun) assumptions people have. You might even get an opportunity to speak some more into the conversation and get more folks thinking about the questions you propose. I understand that the last thing you want to do is to speak to anyone at the paper, but I think too often people take the course of action – they vent their frustrations to their friends, but don’t make an attempt to get folks in the media to understand. I would suggest you go in person. Newspaper people are good at defecting complaints over the phone. It’s must more difficult face to face. One word of caution – it may get you nowhere, and could leave you even more frustrated, but I guarantee you will learn more about how things work within the paper, and that will be valuable to you in the future.


  2. Good thoughts, Stan, and I’m over it.

    I’m sure I could have handled this much better, and if I were on the outside looking in, I’d be positive of that. I wanted to ignore it, but it was just too big of a bummer to not share my frustration. Just had to get things out – and if that put my failings on display for everyone, well, I’m human.

    It was a good and wonderful week in spite of all this, and you are right that there are much more important things to be concerned about than my mis-portrayal in a limited circulation up-north daily. I’m sure no one even remembers it but me… the paper was probably in the recycle bin before they went to hide the Easter eggs Sat night.


  3. I agree…title they gave it sucked (I’m so dumb I read it because you wrote it and didn’t notice that the title you gave it in posting it wasn’t the one the paper gave it.) “And if they screwed up with the Master, what did you think would happen with the servant?” (loose paraphrase…don’t you hate those things?) Welcome to the world where following Him requires us to bear 2000 years of on-and-off sucky church history, and decades of a slowly decaying Western Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism. It ain’t easy being identified with that, but Someone else I know does it and bids me do it, too (knowing all the while how much I hate that–I’m one of those “New kind of…, you know.) I may not say this very effectively…and you have my permission to kick my arse for it: Go ahead…explain yourself, grieve, rage, rant, and feel duly betrayed. You have a right to. And then get over it and get on with it. Because some of us are depending on you for kingdom struggles bigger and more important and, in some cases, more personally devastating, than “followed-up” titles (you may refer to Judy’s LT minutes for the secret shorthand meaning of the words in quotation). Ponder this: I don’t know how many pub theologians read the R-E…and you will have opportunity to talk with them about it. If the people who know you dismissed it for the title, then shame on them, not only for disrespecting you but for disrespecting the conversation the same way those “block-headed” folks do. Maybe nobody needed to read what you wrote more than the people who might be initially attracted to “My God is Better….” And maybe this weekend was for them, too. Thank you for a deeply moving and inspiring Holy Week. My wounded spirit needed it. Love you, man.


  4. I agree with AJ. It would be nice for them to respect your piece of art, your composition enough to print this blog post or some form of this that YOU submit and approve. Of course the article speaks for itself, but one has to get past that first impression and likely, false impression they give by changing your words.


  5. I don’t blame you at all for needing to set the record straight and get this off your chest. Maybe they can print this in there next week. Seems only fair. Watch out for the titles though… might I suggest, “My Local Paper is Bigger and Butt-Crackier Than Our Current View of It”? 😉


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