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Pastors: Read This Before You Respond To Media Requests on The Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

There’s no question that local pastors will be interviewed about their position and response to the recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. But before you answer that call, here’s a few things to remember:  Whatever denomination you’re from, just for context, you should read the statement from current and past presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention released just two weeks ago on the issue. Since they’re the largest Protestant group in America, you should know their position, because it may come up in an interview.  Regarding the ruling, here’s some thoughts that may help as you formulate a response – particularly to secular media requests on the issue: 

1. Never engage in an argument. You don’t win when you start arguing with the media. Remember – they hold the power in editing, and control the outcome of your statement. Keep your cool.

2. My suggestion is not to make a statement today at all unless you feel strongly about it.  Today, hundreds of people are being interviewed – so much that individual opinions in the media won’t have a significant impact right now. It will be far better to “save your ammo” for a few weeks from now, when the initial media splash has died down. That’s actually when your statement will be noticed and potentially carry more weight.

3. Avoid being negative. That immediately will define your perception. As a Christian leader, it’s far better to remind people that we are driven by love, and a higher calling. We see a bigger picture here, and haven’t given up on reaching today’s culture with a message of hope. Particularly on TV, your attitude often has more impact than what you actually say.

4. Finally – keep it short.  A media interview isn’t time for a sermon or lecture. The single greatest tool journalists use to hang people is simply allowing them to talk freely. Just because the interviewer gets quiet or doesn’t say anything doesn’t mean you should keep talking. Make your statement and make it short and sweet. With a shorter statement, chances are higher it will be used on the air, and it can’t be edited to twist what you are saying.

Remember – it’s not just what you say in a media interview, it’s how you say it.  Following these suggestions will help you make a greater impact.

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  1. Might I add one? Maybe a 2a or a 5……

    Check your ego — today is not the day to indulge it or be baited by it!
    If you KNOW you’re not the best face/voice for Christianity on this issue
    and can think of someone in the area better at this than you, then, by
    all means, decline the interview request and suggest that other person
    to the producer/interviewer! Don’t succumb to the temptation of the ego
    stroke or the flattery *unless* you KNOW you’re REALLY good at and for
    this! Today, many in the media are looking for the ugly, angry,
    stereotypical, shallow-thinking, and idiotic in the faith….don’t YOU
    be that for them! Remember that the Bible insists that you be shrewd
    and savvy when dealing with those outside….if that can’t be you today,
    then don’t deal with those outside today!

    Oh, shoot…how ’bout a #6?

    Try not to accept or use their vocabulary, which can include both terms and their definitions AND the paradigm around them. Use the opportunity to remind people of the real, standard definitions of things and concepts, perhaps even throwing in something like “everybody knows that,” and then ask an intriguingly-worded question that leads people to naturally arrive at what’s true by themselves.

    1. Good advice. One of the biggest challenges Christianity faces in the media today is over-eager leaders trying to get on TV who turn out to be inarticulate or ignorant of the subject. That does enormous damage to our cause.

  2. Don’t the media outlets have their “Go To” Religion Guy on stand by?
    If you are on a panel with leaders from different denominations with different points of view (Pro & Com), what should you not do?

    1. Some do, but most networks are open to new voices. Plus, local news outlets are always wanting to get the perspective from local pastors, so local TV, radio, and newspapers are the most likely place the majority of pastors and leaders could speak into the issue. Regarding the panel with various denominations, I suggest respect for the other points of view (viewers actually appreciate civility), never be a bully or push your ideas too strongly. But be direct, to the point, and engage with the host or interviewer. If you come across as angry or grumpy, you may say the right things, but to the audience, your bad attitude will undermine you.

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