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INSIDE STORY: When a seagull eats Tater Tots for breakfast

Confessions, condolences and media reports that confound me:
When I mentioned confessions, I hope you realize I wasn’t referring to myself.
I need to make a confession on behalf of my lovely bride, Tamie, the associate online editor for The Christian Chronicle.
Recently, we traveled to Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., to cover an a cappella music symposium (see the story here). While there, we ate at Pepperdine’s cafeteria and found seats on the outside deck with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.
Well, when a seagull sat on the ledge and watched us eat, Tamie just couldn’t help herself. She started tossing Tater Tots in the seagull’s direction. The bird caught most of them, enjoying a hearty breakfast.
Yes, I know, a grown woman should know better.
On a serious note, all of us at the Chronicle have grieved for Dale and Rita Brown and their entire extended family.
Dale, a humble servant of God, is chairman of the Chronicle’s national board of trustees. On Memorial Day, he lost his 13-year-old grandson in a tragic automobile accident.
John Connor Brown, a seventh-grader at Midland Christian Schools in Texas, was the son of Tod and Lee Ann Brown. Tod is executive minister of the Golf Course Road church in Midland. Survivors include Connor’s brothers, Hutton and Reagan, and his sister, Bailey, who is recovering from serious injuries suffered in the crash.
After Connor’s death, an online guestbook was set up for friends and church members to offer prayers and expressions of love.
I found myself checking the guestbook several times a day — amazed by the hundreds of messages posted by Christians who didn’t know quite what to say but wanted the Browns to know they cared and were praying. Tod Brown later wrote that the “fellowship and community” of the online guestbook were a welcome surprise and comfort.
“It is not possible to describe how the messages and site visits were like warm blankets and strong medicine,” he wrote. “Our broken hearts have been held by your words.”
We at the Chronicle offer our sincerest condolences to the Brown family.
I have a love-hate relationship with the secular news media. On the one hand, I spent 15 years with The Associated Press, The Daily Oklahoman and other daily newspapers. Most of the reporters and editors with whom I worked were caring, professional and fair.
On the other hand, there are journalists — if you can call them that — like the one who recently wrote a story for the Nashville Scene on two Church of Christ members running for top city offices in the Tennessee capital.
Here’s how the writer characterized the situation: “Buck Dozier, who is running for mayor, and Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, who wants to be vice mayor, both belong to the Church of Christ — that quirky collection of rigid fundamentalists that’s a little squirrelly even for much of the rest of the Christian right.”
The story continued: “It is a loose network of independent churches with no creed, so it’s hard to generalize about its beliefs. But in addition to the standard conservative Christian articles of faith, the typical Christer thinks a church piano is the devil’s instrument, it’s wrong to celebrate Christmas as Jesus’ birth — and, oh yes, everyone but members of the Church of Christ is going to spend eternity in hell.”
That same week, a WorldNetDaily.com story referred to possible Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson’s reported affiliation with Churches of Christ. The story said: “Political strategists say Thompson would likely have to distance himself from the Churches of Christ in a general election bid. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, in particular, could make hay of his affiliation with the church, which restricts women’s role in the worship service.”
Granted, neither of those publications represent the mainstream media.
But even the initial Associated Press story from Mary Winkler’s murder trial referred to Churches of Christ as a “strict denomination.” To AP’s credit, a respected national editor in New York removed that description when I complained that it hinted at editorial bias.
Still, I wonder how we should handle negative characterizations of Churches of Christ. Should we worry about unfair representations? Why, in some cases, are we so misunderstood?
What has your own congregation’s experience been in dealing with the media? Are the types of descriptions mentioned above exceptions or typical?
I’d welcome your thoughts and ideas. Please e-mail me and be sure to include your name, congregation and contact information.
Assistant managing editor Erik Tryggestad, his wife, Jeanie, and I worshiped at the Central church in Wichita, Kan., recently while in town for a National Writers Workshop. The man sitting in front of us — whose name I apologize that I cannot remember — made our day by recognizing us and telling us how much he likes reading the Chronicle.
I have enjoyed similar exchanges recently with readers in California, Maryland and Oklahoma. Thank you for blessing us by reading the Chronicle and supporting our ministry of informing, inspiring and uniting Churches of Christ.

Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: Inside Story

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