These days, when something is presented as being ‘unacceptable’, a pile-on quickly ensues. A recent example is the kissing of Jenni Hermoso by Luis Rubiales whilst Spain was celebrating at the Women’s World Cup final. It was a fleeting moment; he was giving her a hug then a kiss on the lips and that was it. Although it wasn’t. Amidst calls to resign, it was reported that even Rubiales’ mother went on a hunger strike to protest the “witch hunt” against her son. Certainly, there is lots wrong with football and much wrong with women’s football but by any objective measure, this has been blown out of proportion.
However, this is not about football, but about a troubling trend that we see in the wider church that concerns truth and faithfulness. There is a well known media organisation based in the UK called Premier that has a wide reach and influence with many Christians and Christian organisations. Premier describe themselves as “Europe’s largest Christian media organisation” and cover a wide range of content through their magazine, website, podcast and radio stations. They have established what could be described as a ‘BBC-esque’ position in the Christian media world, giving the appearance of balance whilst holding to a subtle bias that too often aligns with the mainstream. In essence, neither hot nor cold.
“God’s Word is not there to prop up a mainstream media narrative”
With the Rubiales furore, an article appeared on the Premier Christianity website by Jane Chevous that serves as a good example of Premier’s editorial approach. The piece takes the reader swiftly from a kiss at a football match to talk of church abuse survivors in a matter of paragraphs, the intention being to conflate the behaviour of Rubailes with serious sexual abuse. The danger with this approach is that it runs the risk of minimising genuine abuse along with the associated hurt and confusion that comes with that. The BBC did a (predictably) similar thing and Rob Slane (The Blog Mire) puts it very well when he said “By describing a 1-second kiss during celebrations as a “sexual assault”, the term “sexual assault” is flattened to make it meaningless. This could have been dealt with by the man apologising & the woman saying “forgiven”. But we must have our witch hunts.”
In her article, Chevous makes the outlandish (and revealingly mainstream) claim that the “Church is another chauvinistic and patriarchal institution…”. On its own, that’s a weighty statement about the Body of Christ, yet Premier would appear to stand by it through their active promotion of her piece. Chevous goes on to mention Jesus’ words on justice and how God is for truth and judges with equity. She then quotes Psalm 72 out of context, like a kind of Biblical flag wave for Jenni Hermoso. But God’s Word is not there to prop up a mainstream media narrative as Chevous implies and Premier facilitates. It’s almost as if Premier is wanting to be a broad road for Christians to travel down comfortably, without any real consideration as to the destination.
Near the end, Chevous writes, “Hermoso’s experience symbolises the oppression of women in a misogynistic culture; she has come to represent every woman who has been ignored or threatened when they have stood up to injustice.” This dramatic overstating, complete with a reminder that we live in a ‘misogynistic culture’ (yes, here in the west) would be bad enough, but the author goes on to suggest that God is there in solidarity with Hermoso as if the ‘#metoo’ movement is high on God’s agenda.
It’s clear that Premier Christianity tries to be all things to all people. Their website is weighed down with content that all too often adheres to the mainstream narrative whilst wrapped in ‘Christianese’, although occasionally there will be something good. With articles like “AI can write a great sermon. But should you use it?”, “Christian leaders’ silence on animal welfare is scandalous”, “Why it’s time to build a truly diverse Church”, “What Christians can learn from Just Stop Oil” and “Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech is often misunderstood. He wanted reparations”, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled onto the faith section of The Guardian. The problem runs deeper however, as author and podcaster, Nick Franks highlights so well in this video.
Premier Christianity claims the following “Our editorial approach emphasises the beliefs and values that Christians generally hold in common. We believe that throughout the years that God has blessed Premier with resources and media platforms to communicate through, that our mandate is to be there and report on all those who would say ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.”
So, if I say “Jesus Christ is Lord” and then state (for example) “that the practice of homosexuality is not a sin” then is that ‘ok’ by Premier? I suspect they gloss over their theological shortcomings in order to try and hold a perceived middle ground and that, perhaps, is the issue. As a Christian media organisation, surely Premier should stand for and seek the truth whilst faithfully holding to what the Bible teaches?
If they did, they would not be as popular, but those that follow hard after Christ never are.