The Means and Ends of Adventist Media


(system) #1

By Alexander Carpenter

The Adventist blogosphere has raised some questions about the Danny and Linda Shelton divorce and Adventist Today's coverage.

Perpetual Student points out, "Now I don't have the time or interest to figure out what really happened, but I thought the letters provided a good example of some of the pitfalls that a ministry can face if it is too tightly controlled by a dominant personanility (sic)."

Ron Corson and the rest writes: "It may be a shame that people search the AToday site for information on the 3ABN situation but that is really not the fault of AToday. To report on the situation is part of AToday's purpose in reporting news of Adventist interest and it certainly does not have lots of material on the subject." But let's not mix posting emails with news reporting. I worry that my friends at Adventist Today are letting the wrong kind of interest drive their content. At the root, it seems, they are mixing their means and ends.

Behind some the prurient discomfort over the Sheltons' personal lives lie serious objections to the content and management of 3ABN.

But let's stop for a second. We must pull away from the brink of employing personal relationships as substitute arguments for raising essential questions about the people who represent our faith to the world. It troubles me that some religious folks have been at the forefront of personal attacks on public figures (Bill Clinton/John McCain) - and we cannot allow dehumanizing titillation and argument by innuendo to leak into the public discourse of our faith community.

I've interviewed Linda for Spectrum and investigated the multi-million dollar waste and the bumbling right-wing coddling of 3ABN. And yes, you can buy a wedding dress or a doll by Marie Osmond from 3ABN on Ebay.

But beyond the personal, Danny's email retort reveals a troubling morality - essentially saying that he has many converts so shouldn't be criticized by folks with less. That hint of "ends over means" justification should make his accountant and 3ABN board sweat.

Ron gets at that when he writes: "Just claiming that Danny Shelton is spreading the gospel is not enough, Christian responsibility calls for accountability as well."

When a person starts defending themselves by saying: "but look at all the good I've done (Duke Cunningham/Pol Pot)," their moral jig is up.

I believe, Mr. Shelton, that the Spanish Inquisition got even more converts than you. As an Adventist I want to see better content and leadership at one of the largest cultural signifiers of Adventism; but we should make sure that our own means stay high. Concerned Adventists need to drive smart change at 3ABN, but we'll give our whole community a better media experience by staying off "the he said/she said" road.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4504