This week two sex scandals – one involving a national political figure and one a prominent pastor – are making national headlines. Sadly, it’s not the first time nor will it be the last we will see these types of stories surface. But as a Christian and a journalist, I am asking myself how I should view and report them.
As I write this column, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) and pastor Bob Coy of Florida both have stories on the main page of <The Christian Post and other national media sites highlighting their sins and moral failures. McAllister, a married congressman, for a leaked video of him kissing a staff member at a Christmas party and Coy has resigned because of past “moral failures” that appears to be a sexual affair.
In the interest of full disclosure, I understand exactly how these two men feel.
In 2009, while serving in the Tennessee State Senate, I had an affair with an intern in my office that was revealed after her boyfriend attempted to extort money from me. As a born-again Christian before, during and after my sin, the shame and embarrassment is and can be overwhelming for these men and their families. For someone who is a Christian, the stigma is even worse, especially from non-believers or opponents who are joyous in the fact that a Christian has fallen to the same sins they vowed to uphold.
Were they hypocritical in their actions given their professed Christian beliefs? Yes, and such criticism is fair and justified. But as Christians, we should try and help our fallen brothers find their way back.
Religious beliefs aside, these stories are worthy of news coverage. In fact, it is our duty as journalists to report the facts as we know and uncover them, be they Democrat or Republican, Christian or atheist.
The sad reality is: sex sells. For example, is it more enticing to read about a congressman in an inappropriate and sinful situation or about disagreements with the House budget plan? Is it more exciting to see a front-page story about a pastor having an affair than to read about the controversy surrounding building plans for a new youth center? I think you get my point. Sex sells and it sells big.
Secular media editors and reporters are hoping these stories will have a long shelf life so they can, in turn, get more hits and sell more papers, thus generating more advertising revenue to feed the bottom line. That’s simply the business of journalism.
But as Christian journalists, do we have a biblical responsibility to report these stories in a different manner? I believe we do.
We’ll obviously cover and write the scandalous and salacious headlines that will grab your attention. We will point out that adultery or sex outside of marriage is a sin (the same sin as homosexuality), but we also have the responsibility of addressing forgiveness, reconciliation and how these men can be redeemed in the eyes of God.
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and former city councilman in Clarksville, Tenn., and understands the public scrutiny placed on both. In a phone conversation we had Wednesday, pastor Edmondson and I talked about the public pressure that both of these men will have to endure for the next few years, and even for the rest of their lives.
“What they need is time alone with their families and pastors, hopefully with no outside involvement, to work through the many issues they are faced with,” said Edmondson. “But unlike the average couple in my church, they won’t have that luxury.”
To read the rest of the column in The Christian Post, click here.