Archive for category Say Something Nice

How “Lou Grant” Ignited My Spiritual Call to Journalism

by Mark Wingfield | May 4, 2021 | Feature-Opinion

As a 19-year-old, I experienced a spiritual calling to journalism. And it happened while watching TV.

No, I wasn’t called to ministry by a televangelist. My calling came through the voice of Ed Asner, who in December 1980 was playing the role of a newspaper editor on the hit show, “Lou Grant.”

This show was a sequel to the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” with Lou Grant having moved from managing a TV station to managing a city newspaper.

The details of what happened in the particular episode that spoke to me are lost to time, and that doesn’t really matter anyway. Because what I heard through the TV wasn’t actually the voice of Ed Asner, it was to me the voice of God.

In an instant, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that when I returned from Christmas break to my freshman year at Oklahoma Baptist University, I was to change my major from piano performance to journalism. Which is exactly what I did.

I understood in that moment – with extreme clarity – that the calling to Christian ministry I had experienced as a seventh-grader on a youth group mission trip was a calling to tell the truth with the power of words.

I understood that journalism was a path to offer a prophetic voice, to expose society’s wrongs and extol society’s virtues. I knew I could make a difference.

Looking back 40 years later, was this seeming word from the Lord correct? I believe wholeheartedly that it was, even if it was simplistic enough to break through my 19-year-old brain.

To borrow a line from Barbra Streisand: “Can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line? If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we?”

Time has indeed rewritten many lines, but I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat. The reason why is contained in the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day: “Information as a Public Good.”

For me, journalism is a way to do good.

When we tell the stories of the voiceless, we’re doing a public good. When we tell the stories of the oppressed, we’re doing a public good.

When we tell the stories of those who give themselves for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the community, we’re doing a public good.

In this spiritual enterprise, I’ve led a charmed life. The worst I’ve had to deal with is angry letters or emails and only the occasional threat of a lawsuit.

The same cannot be said for many others who have answered the call to be truth-tellers in a world that loves lies.

Last year, 50 journalists worldwide were killed for their work, according to Reporters Without Borders. And two-thirds of those were killed in countries officially “at peace,” not at war.

Lou Grant also had it easy back in 1980 because most Americans then trusted the reliability of professional journalists, even if they didn’t like what was reported. That was before narcissistic public figures poisoned the well of American trust in order to prop up their self-serving lies.

Imagine a world, though, where journalists are not present to tell the truth, not allowed to explain what’s really going on. That’s a world of totalitarian dictatorship.

What we know now, though, that Lou Grant couldn’t have known, is the power of journalism to find a way out of the darkness even when kings and potentates try their best to stop it. Even when journalists are murdered or slandered or sidelined to keep the truth out.

Today, we the know the power of citizen journalists, ordinary people who use cell phone video and social media to document police abuse, racism and Capitol riots. We know the power of ordinary people who value truth and share it widely, even if taking on the role of journalist causes them to lose family and friends.

We know – beyond the shadow of a doubt – that truth will out. And we know that we who are Christians are called to that kind of truth-telling, whether we’ve been to journalism school or not.

So, this week, in honor of World Press Freedom Day, will you join me in answering the call to do what old-time Baptist newspaper editor E.S. James declared as his motto: “Tell the truth and trust the people”?

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week for World Press Freedom Day (May 3). The previous article in the series is:

Free Press Steers Society in Right Direction | Marv Knox

Mark Wingfield headshot

Executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global and the author of Why Churches Need to Talk About Sexuality.

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Why You Should Consider ‘Harvesting Life’ – Goodfaithmedia.org

“Harvesting life” should be a focal point for us as we age, said retired pastor and bioethicist Bert Keller.

“Harvesting a life means remembering, cherishing and telling the stories of one’s lifetime,” Keller explained. “Harvesting means accepting the role of elder in your tribe: to gather your lifetime like a ripened crop and to offer the best of what you’ve learned to the future.”

After reading this explanation, I began to examine my life for those characteristics that might be of value to others, especially those who are younger.

My search revealed the following nine values that have undergirded my personal life, friendships and professional relationships.

  1. Optimism.

I have a deep belief that most people are good at heart and that most of us want to do the right thing. I believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

I am not talking about a Pollyannaish attitude, but a realistic, eyes open look at life.

Have I ever been taken advantage of or stabbed in the back? Of course, but I am not going to live my life worrying about that possibility with each person I meet. The price for that attitude is too high.

  1. Ingenuity.

I always look for a different or unique way of looking at a problem or situation.

I decided rather early in my career that there were plenty of other professionals writing articles for other professionals. I decided to focus my attention on the person who needed the information but who was not a professional in the field.

  1. Persistence.

I continue to pursue an idea, an interview, an adventure or a job in the face of obstacles that lie in my path.

When I was the executive of an agency for the disabled, it took me 15 years to acquire a mobile testing unit, but we finally accomplished the goal.

As chairman of a lecture series, it took eight years to line up a particular national speaker, but we finally signed him up. His presentations made our efforts more than we could have ever anticipated.

  1. Endurance.

I am always in it for the long haul. I prefer to call this tenacious, but my father had another name for it: bullheadedness.

As a writer, there is a publication that I have targeted as a place I would like to publish an article. I have not accomplished that goal, but I haven’t given up.

  1. Integrity.

My word is my bond. I credit my father for this one. He had an impeccable reputation for honesty. I want that kind of reputation for myself.

  1. A sense of humor.

I discovered early in my life that a sense of humor always made the journey easier and more fun. Often it would catch the other person off guard.

There are hardly any situations that a little humor doesn’t help, as long as it is not barbed at the other’s expense

In working for a not-for-profit agency, I was often labeled an idealist.

My answer is, “I certainly hope so.” That is not the anticipated response. It breaks the tension and lightens the atmosphere.

  1. Gratitude is the most important value.

I am grateful for all the kindnesses I have received over the years. For my family and friends. For all of the second chances and benefits of the doubt I have received. For my life and for my country.

  1. To love and be loved is perhaps the greatest miracle of all.

I have experienced the love of two wonderful women, both of whom have predeceased me. They provided a safe harbor, a warm place to grow and experience life. I provided the same safe place for them to be themselves.

This kind of love is inexplicable but contributes greatly to the fully developed life. It far exceeds physical attraction.

  1. Faith is the most difficult to explain and yet it undergirds my entire life.

I believe that there is a force of goodness, kindness and love in the world. My faith has allowed me to recover from unbearable pain and survive. It is a constant assurance that I am not alone.

I believe in a God who is a comforting compassionate presence. I believe in a God who welcomes me and tells me that I am enough.

This “harvesting” of my life was a profound and meaningful experience. I encourage others to undertake such reflections not only in your latter years but also regularly throughout your life.

Considering the values and characteristics that undergird enrich our lives is always a worthwhile exercise.

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Easter Sunday: New Life

For the second year I will not attend an in person Easter Sunday church service. In my youth I even attended Sunrise services especially when my dad was in charge. In my youth, Baptists celebrated only two religious calendar events – Christmas and Easter.
After moving to Charleston and First Baptist Church, fortunately we added a host of other events from the Christian calendar. Epiphany, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday (Stations of the Cross) and All Saints Eve. At Christmas we also have a Chrisman tree. My friend, the late Dr. Tom Guerry, use to carve them and give one to each couple attending a Christmas Eve brunch at his and Vicki’s home. I treasure ours.
As I became more familiar with the Lectionary, I came to a fuller appreciation for the sequence of events and how such observances better prepare us as we move through the year. These help me immensely in my preparation to teach Sunday school and to write devotionals for publications of different denominations. I have even learned to appreciate the colors for each season of the church.
I am profoundly grateful for the foundation I received at Northside Baptist Church in Woodruff that prepared me to grow in my Christian journey. I had wonderful mentors along the way: the Rev. Roy R. Gowan, Dr. C. Earl Cooper, and Dr. John Hamrick and a host of others from the John Hamrick Lectureship, which I chaired for twenty years and those I encountered at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. Rev, Dr. R. Marshall Blalock has exercised amazing grace on my behalf over the years of our fellowship and I am grateful to him. I add to my list of mentors: Rev. Dr. Tom Guerry, Dr. Monty Knight, Chaplain Carl Tolbert, Rev. Bob Boston and Rev. Phil Bryant.

I must mention Rev. Ansel McGill, my boyhood friend and mentor long before I knew the meaning of the word. He is an inspiration throughout my life. Dr. Marvin Cann was my roommate at Furman University. Marvin’s friendship, continues to be a strong influence in my life. He is a mentor who leads by example.

This is a journey that continues to unfold. Easter is a new beginning, new life, new visions, new adventures.

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Lyndon Johnson on Voting Rights and the American Promise (1965)

On March 15, 1965, Lyndon Baines Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to push for the Voting Rights Act. In his speech, Johnson not only advocated policy, he borrowed the language of the civil rights movement and tied the movement to American history.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Congress:
I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.…
At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.
There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed.
There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our democracy in what is happening here tonight.
For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great Government–the Government of the greatest Nation on earth.
Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.
In our time we have come to live with moments of great crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues; issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved Nation.
The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation.

This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: “All men are created equal”—“government by consent of the governed”—“give me liberty or give me death.” Well, those are not just clever words, or those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives.
Those words are a promise to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man’s possessions; it cannot be found in his power, or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom, he shall choose his leaders, educate his children, and provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.
To apply any other test–to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race, his religion or the place of his birth–is not only to do injustice, it is to deny America and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom.

To those who seek to avoid action by their National Government in their own communities; who want to and who seek to maintain purely local control over elections, the answer is simple:
Open your polling places to all your people.
Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin.
Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land.

So I ask you to join me in working long hours–nights and weekends, if necessary–to pass this bill. And I don’t make that request lightly. For from the window where I sit with the problems of our country I recognize that outside this chamber is the outraged conscience of a nation, the grave concern of many nations, and the harsh judgment of history on our acts.
But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.
Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
And we shall overcome.…
My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, in a small Mexican-American school. Few of them could speak English, and I couldn’t speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast, hungry. They knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them. But they knew it was so, because I saw it in their eyes. I often walked home late in the afternoon, after the classes were finished, wishing there was more that I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that it migLyndon Johnson on Voting Rights and the American Promise (1965)
On March 15, 1965, Lyndon Baines Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to push for the Voting Rights Act. In his speech, Johnson not only advocated policy, he borrowed the language of the civil rights movement and tied the movement to American history.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Congress:
I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.…
At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.
There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed.
There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our democracy in what is happening here tonight.
For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great Government–the Government of the greatest Nation on earth.
Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.
In our time we have come to live with moments of great crisis. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues; issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression. But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved Nation.
The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation.

This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: “All men are created equal”—“government by consent of the governed”—“give me liberty or give me death.” Well, those are not just clever words, or those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives.
Those words are a promise to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man’s possessions; it cannot be found in his power, or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom, he shall choose his leaders, educate his children, and provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.
To apply any other test–to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race, his religion or the place of his birth–is not only to do injustice, it is to deny America and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom.

To those who seek to avoid action by their National Government in their own communities; who want to and who seek to maintain purely local control over elections, the answer is simple:
Open your polling places to all your people.
Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin.
Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land.

So I ask you to join me in working long hours–nights and weekends, if necessary–to pass this bill. And I don’t make that request lightly. For from the window where I sit with the problems of our country I recognize that outside this chamber is the outraged conscience of a nation, the grave concern of many nations, and the harsh judgment of history on our acts.
But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.
Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
And we shall overcome.…
My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, in a small Mexican-American school. Few of them could speak English, and I couldn’t speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast, hungry. They knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them. But they knew it was so, because I saw it in their eyes. I often walked home late in the afternoon, after the classes were finished, wishing there was more that I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that it might help them against the hardships that lay ahead.
Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.
I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965. It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students and to help people like them all over this country.
But now I do have that chance—and I’ll let you in on a secret—I mean to use it. And I hope that you will use it with me.…
[Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965. Volume I, entry 107 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1966), 281-287. Available online via LBJ Library (http://www.lbjlibrary.org/lyndon-baines-johnson/speeches-films/president-johnsons-special-message-to-the-congress-the-american-promise).]

ht help them against the hardships that lay ahead.
Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.
I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965. It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students and to help people like them all over this country.
But now I do have that chance—and I’ll let you in on a secret—I mean to use it. And I hope that you will use it with me.…
[Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965. Volume I, entry 107 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1966), 281-287. Available online via LBJ Library (http://www.lbjlibrary.org/lyndon-baines-johnson/speeches-films/president-johnsons-special-message-to-the-congress-the-american-promise).]

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