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Alum speaks on role of Christians in media

Nov. 6, 1998



Christians in the mass communications field was the topic of discussion in a speech given by Terry Mattingly, a well-known Scripps Howard News Service religion columnist and 1976 Baylor graduate.

During his speech in Bennett Auditorium Thursday night, Mattingly said he blamed the 'church just as much as the powers that be in the media' for the lack of Christians who refuse to take part in secular journalism.

He cited a quotation from C.S. Lewis to describe his not being fulfilled with the number of Christians ready to participate in the world of mass communications: 'The world does not need more Christian writers; the world needs more Christians that will write for everyone.'

Mattingly made references to the music industry and the habit of labeling artists to make them more marketable. He referred to Wynona Judd, a singer who has overt references to God in her songs, but who is not seen as a Christian contemporary music artist.

'[Wynona Judd] is under contract to be a country artist, so she is a country artist,' Mattingly said. 'It's a business thing.'

Although the speech was titled 'The Christian Music Wars,' it dealt with Christians in movies and in news businesses as well as in the music industry. In his explanation of Christians in mass communications, Mattingly said, 'A lot of Christians want [entertainment] too. But they want the nice, safe version of the fun seculars have with entertainment.'

Reinforcing his idea of Christians protecting themselves from mass communications, Mattingly said, 'Christian has become another contractual niche.'

He insisted that Christians hesitate to join the journalism industry because of the evident lack of religion and the numerous disagreements and quarrels. He did, however, acknowledge the bias which the media industry holds against overt Christian content in stories.

To support what he said about the evil that Christians see in the mass media, he said, 'Christians love the magic bullet theory.'

'They blame the media and believe that if they do the right thing, everyone will be saved.'

Mattingly, whose column, 'On Religion,' is syndicated to about 350 papers in the United States, said something is labeled Christian by the content of lyrics, the style of music and the personal commitments of artists.

He compared albums by Amy Grant and Van Halen respectively.

Mattingly pointed out that Amy Grant would be seen as a Contemporary Christian musical even though she did not make one reference to 'Lord, God, Jesus Christ' in her latest album.

Discussing Van Halen's latest album, he said four songs make explicit references to God. He did assure, however, that Van Halen is not seen as a Christian band and will not be honored in the Dove Awards.

In July, Mattingly will become the co-founder of the journalism program for Regent University in Washington D.C. Mattingly also teaches journalism at Milligan College in East Tennessee.

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