WASHINGTON (BP)–In a recent cover story titled, “Scouts Divided,” Newsweek promised to tell its readers “how a stand against gays is dividing an American institution.” What it ends up doing, however, is demonstrating how the worldview of the media affects the way journalists do their job.
Last year, the Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts’ First Amendment right to decide who can and cannot be a scoutmaster. While the decision settled the legal issue, it marked the beginning of a larger struggle.
According to Newsweek, this larger struggle extends to scouting itself. The magazine tells readers that a “growing number” of “moms, dads … and teenage boys” are challenging the Scouts’ policy “because they love scouting.”
So we read about a Des Moines woman who took the uniform she wore as a chairwoman for a local Cub Scout pack and put it the garage. One man, meanwhile, is considering removing his son — who has special needs and has “blossomed” as a result of his scouting experience — from the Scouts altogether on account of their policy.
The problem is, of course, as social scientists like to say, the plural of anecdotes isn’t data. And Newsweek’s handful of stories do not constitute proof of a dissident movement within scouting. Likewise, the statistics the reporters cite are not evidence of widespread disaffection. While it’s true that the number of kids in scouting dropped last year, Newsweek’s own graphics indicate similar drops as recently as six years ago.
To quote the social scientists again, correlation isn’t the same as causation. That two things happened at the same time is not proof that one caused the other. There are other factors responsible, like demographics, which Newsweek did not explore. I suspect that’s because such an exploration wouldn’t be consistent with the slant the magazine’s writers and editors wanted to give.
Another thing that wouldn’t be consistent with this story is telling readers about the increased financial support for scouting over the past year. Or how attempts by local United Way chapters to strong-arm them into changing the policy has resulted in more people designating the Scouts directly as the recipient of their contributions.
What’s important to understand is that articles like this aren’t the product of a conspiracy or any concerted effort to shove “gay rights” down our throats. Instead, it’s the product of a worldview, shaped by the sexual revolution, that can’t imagine a “legitimate” reason for the Scouts’ policy.
The media see dissension within scouting because their secular worldview can’t imagine intelligent people agreeing with a policy based on traditional Christian morality.
Christians need to have both a short-term and a long-term response to media coverage like this. The short-term response is to be knowledgeable about issues of importance to Christians and not swallow everything we read. Not simply to know the real story, but to be able to lovingly correct misinformation and misrepresentation when we see it.
The longer-term strategy is to create a stronger Christian presence in the media — because stories like this will only proliferate so long as there are so few Christians in the newsrooms. And the divide between journalists and the rest of us, who hold a traditional worldview, will only continue. As Newsweek illustrated, this is one nation with two cultures.
Colson is the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted from the ministry’s BreakPoint website, www.breakpoint.org. Copyright 2001. All rights reserved.