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{December 23rd, 2004}

What was the Gazette thinking??

My Sunday paper is always crammed full of stuff I don’t want: A tube of toothpaste, a mouthwash sample, dishwasher detergent. But a New Testament? I’m speechless. Speechless and appalled.

Yes, the Gazette is a for-profit company. Yes, they have the right to sell distribution rights to willing buyers. Yes, it’s a free country, I don’t have to subscribe to the paper, I don’t have to read the book, yadda yadda yadda. I understand all that. I even believe it.

But there’s so much more going on here. For one, the national media are having a field day. Whatever else happens in this town, we’ll be known forever as the place where you get a free Bible with your Sunday paper. Whether you want it or not.

Doesn’t the Gazette know how many people want to paint it as a culturally conservative, right-wing rag in the pocket of the Religious Right? I know that’s not true, and I tell that to anyone who’ll listen. But slipping a New Testament in my Sunday funnies doesn’t help my case.

What were evangelicals thinking?

By now, their copy of “God’s Word” has been backed over by Humvees, drooled on by Fido, and dumped in the trash. I presume they’re OK with this. Perhaps if it brings one soul to Jesus, they think it’s worth it.

By contrast, my faith insists on a strict separation between the sacred and the ordinary. In fact, one of our most beautiful rituals ends with a blessing of gratitude for that very separation. We don’t put our scriptures on the floor of our Temple. How could we risk putting them on the floor of your car?
It turns my stomach to see that distinction blurred. Then again, I live in a town where people put religious symbols next to their tailpipes. It’s a wonder my guts aren’t completely inside out by now.

Some of you may remember my column on ground rules for religious discussion. I was delighted to hear from a pastor who agreed completely. So why is his church a sponsor?

What is that pastor thinking?

Stuffing unsolicited religious works into someone else’s paper breaks every one of the rules I thought reasonable people could agree on. It’s insulting to nonevangelicals, and it confuses passion with evidence. Worst of all, it doesn’t distinguish between statements of fact and statements of faith.

Just look at the cover: “Colorado Springs: Our City” “The New Testament, God’s Word”. A statement of fact, followed by a statement of faith. One with which I take issue.
And it only gets worse. Looking inside, we find handy facts about Coloradoes Springs. Then we learn the death and resurrection of Jesus are also “facts”. What’s the connection? Is listing facts about Colorado Springs supposed to establish credibility? I might expect that on the Home Shopping Channel. But from a religious group that claims the moral high ground? I’m unimpressed.

What am I thinking?

I’m thinking: Please don’t cancel your subscription. That’s like not voting on Election Day. That’s like walking off the field when the ref makes a bad call. You make a point, but you’re out of the game. And you don’t really want to be out of the game. That’s where the action is. Besides, I’d hate to lose readers.

I’m thinking that if you’ve still got “Our City” but you don’t know what to do with it, you can at least keep it out of Our Landfill. Return it to one of the sponsors. Better still, give it to a homeless shelter or an evangelical friend.
More than anything else, though, I’m thinking about the betrayal of principles for cash. I know times are hard for newspapers, but was this absolutely necessary? Newspapers should be beacons of factual information and builders of community. How much does it cost to set those principles aside?
Thirty thousand dollars. According to the Colorado Springs Independent, that’s about how much the International Bible Society paid to distribute their book. Which is interesting, because if you open it and turn to page 22, you can read a heartrending story about the betrayal of ideals for money.

Something about thirty pieces of silver.