The Laodicean Times: Neither Cold nor Hot, a Commentary

Here is another commentary I wrote for my News and Religion course. I wrote it several weeks ago, but wanted to share it with the class first. Let me know your thoughts.

Many people on Facebook are participating in a 100 day gratitude challenge. Every day, for a hundred days, they post, “Day n (of 100) of Positive Thinking. What are you thankful for or makes you happy today? Please comment.” I joined in because it seems that a major contributor to the problems of our day is a lack of gratitude. A friend, who had shared this challenge a while ago posted on my first day,

The opposite of hate is not love or vice versa; it is apathy. As the adage goes: all it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing. The only way we can battle the negativity surrounding us is by a daily practice of peaceful and passionate speaking up against it.

For me, this ties back to my religious beliefs. It brings to mind the message to the church in Laodicea in the Revelation 3:15-16

I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

It does seem as if we are neither cold nor hot in our country, that good people are doing nothing, and that evil is prospering. There are exceptions, but they are too few. Yet standing up for truth and beauty can be challenging.

In 2008, The Quill published Keeping the Faith by Debra L. Mason. She wrote about the challenge religion reporters face holding onto their faith. She offers suggestions to help reporters handle their faith on the job.

One important suggestion she has is around avoiding conflicts of interest. Things religion reporters should avoid include: “Reporting on your own place of worship, Reporting on issues from which you cannot separate your religious beliefs…[having] Any leadership position (in a religious body) that would compromise your ability to report impartially about a religious tradition… Profiling people you know through your religious life and Reporting on issues for which you’ve advocated on behalf of your faith group.”

These are important issues to consider, but at the same time, we must avoid being neither cold nor hot. I remember being told that people feel what you feel when they read what you write. If you feel dispassionate or uninvolved in what you are writing, they will feel dispassionate or uninvolved with what you are writing.

The Society of Professional Journalists, which publishes The Quill has a Code of Ethics that I encourage everyone to read regularly whether they are a professional reporter, a communications professional with an advocacy role, an individual blogger, or some combination of these roles.

The code of ethics say journalists should “Act Independently … [and] Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.” It also says that journalists should “Label advocacy and commentary.”

As a Post Structural Christian Mystic Poet, I question whether any of us can truly act independently. Our way of thinking, our way of speaking, or very language itself, is shaped by when and where we have been brought up, by our social location.

In this context, as opposed to the context of being a professional journalist, I need to find what works for me, as I write about religion. I believe I am called to write about how we reconnect the spiritual to our daily lives. I believe my words need to be “hot” words of advocacy, about places I worship, people I worship with, and even about leadership roles I take on. I also need to make sure that my words are properly labeled as advocacy and commentary and meet as many other of the ethical standards of the SPJ as possible.

We need more people writing about what is good, what is spiritual, whether it is a sunrise, a baby sleeping on our chest, a young child telling us they love us, a hug from a spouse, or the gentle breeze laden with God’s love rustling our hair. We need to find new ways of sharing this writing in our ever changing media landscape, and we need to help others communicate about their spiritual beliefs as effectively as possible.

The message to the church in Laodicea continues in Revelation 3:19-20

I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

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