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You think you’re holding a newspaper, but in fact it’s a mirror.
That’s my view, anyway, because my goal each week is to produce a paper that reflects the community it serves, warts and all.
As you’ll see in a guest column on this page and in Jess Thompson’s column on the church page, there’s an interesting debate going on between a self-described Christian and a self-described atheist.
What you’ll read is but a sample of the actual debate. Outside of print, guest columnist Jerry Milburn and others queried me about everything from Thompson’s employment status to my policies regarding our weekly church page.
One person also contends that the paper should be “secular,” and we’ll get to that in a bit.
Let’s clear up the first query first. Thompson is not employed by this newspaper, and receives no compensation for his weekly columns. Those wishing for more information about him are welcome to shoot him an email at the address listed at the conclusion of his column.
I’ve been asked numerous times why a person without a congregation is writing a faith column for the newspaper, so let’s clear that up, too. No, Thompson’s not a preacher. When he approached me about submitting faith columns, I initially balked for that very reason alone. I relented, though, mainly because local preachers who traditionally submitted columns for that space did so sporadically at best, so I gave him a shot.
At times bombastic (there I go, the pot calling the kettle black), Thompson’s columns vacillate between self-effacing examinations of his own shortcomings and questionnaires designed to make others examine the depth of their individual beliefs.
What comes across is a reflection of the common person’s desire to walk correctly in God’s eyes while knowing full well they don’t — and perhaps never will — consistently accomplish that goal.
In other words he aims that previously mentioned mirror at many of you, which is perhaps why during the past year his columns have elicited significant reader feedback.
The main criticism I’ve received is from those who contend — but rarely offer anything but hearsay and innuendo — that Thompson lives something other than a perfect life and therefore he should be disqualified from writing a church column.
I’m no expert on the subject, but I do recall Sunday school lessons from my youth that insisted only one has walked the earth in perfection. And while I’d be thrilled to have a weekly column penned by Jesus, I’m afraid I’ll have to settle for a common sinner.
As for those policies, they are fairly straight forward but unlike the Ten Commandments certainly aren’t written in stone.
The short answer is that the faith page is produced each week to reflect an overwhelmingly Christian community. Accordingly, non-Christian viewpoints belong on that page about as much as coverage of a Friday night football game belongs on the society page.
It simply doesn’t fit the purpose.
That football game does have a place in the paper, as do the views and opinions of those expressed this week by guest columnist Jerry Milburn. I have no desire to stifle or restrict access of those who have views contrary to this community’s norms, even though I understand that some of our faithful readers may be uncomfortable — or even shocked — to read them.
As for non-Christian faiths, were there active Buddhist or Sikh or fill-in-the-blank faiths practicing in Anderson County, I’d certainly adjust those policies to give them a place in the mirror.
Lastly, I’ll address the notion that this is supposed to be a secular newspaper.
If by secular he means that in news articles my staff and I should refrain from proselytizing, we already do that. That style of reporting is best left to the variety of faith-based publications that already exist.
But if secular means we should refrain from printing church news, faith columns and even information about the Christian Academy, that would only give credence to the main complaint he lodged — that the newspaper is exclusionary.
Thankfully, the mirror we shine each week is plenty big enough to reflect the viewpoints of everyone and, God willing, that will never change.