Good Ol’ Sensationalism

Nothing beats sensationalism, at least when you’re a reporter or news service. I saw this headline from the AP via Fox News today, “Christian Drifter May Have Killed Two Couples in Separate Beach Murders, Police Say.”

What’s that? A Christian is responsible for two double murders? Well, before you Sam Harris -lovin’, Richard Dawkins -readin’, Christopher Hitchens -followin’ folks get all excited about another Christian person behaving un-Christlike, you might want to actually read the story.

Apparently, in 1972 a couple was killed on a beach in Vancouver. The case went cold, but much more recently, 2004, another couple was killed in a similar manner in New Mexico. What ties these two cases together is Joseph Henry Burgess who died in a shootout with police on July 16,2009. From the AP report, Burgess was a nomad of sort that has wondered all over the Canada and the U.S. but spent the last decade or so “burglarizing cabins in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains”. Perhaps the AP left out some information about Burgess’s life that makes him not just a drifter, but a “Christian Drifter”, but as far as I can tell from their own report there is no evidence that he was a Christian at all.

What, precisely, does the AP say about Burgess’s Christianity? Well, I’ll reproduce it in its entirety,

Burgess eventually made it out to the U.S. West Coast, where he lived in a religious commune run by the Children of God and called himself Job, in reference to the biblical figure, [retired RMCP officer] Creally said. He reportedly was kicked out of the commune’s boarding hosue after his rifle made other residents uncomfortable.

In the words of Porky Pig, “that’s all folks!” Sometime after 1972, when the Vancouver couple was killed, Burgess joined a commune in New Mexico and referred to himself as Job. As far as the AP sees it, that’s enough to be a Christian. Now I know that most Americans are nominal Christians, but this is really pushing that line.

From this report we know so much more about Burgess and nothing at all about his being a Christian. (One need not be a Christian to live in a Christian commune. Heck, just because a commune says it’s Christian doesn’t mean it actually is.) There are all sorts of alternatives besides “Christian Drifter.” Why not “Draft-dodging Drifter”, “Canada-loving Drifter”, “Cookie-stealing Drifter”, or even “Weird-creepy-guy-Drifter”? (Okay, that last one is a bit much.) Why not? Because labelling this guy a Christian is going to attract more attention. It doesn’t matter that we have not a shred of evidence that this guy actually was a Christian. That, my friends, is sensationalism.

(For a much shorter take on the AP’s complete lack of integrity, see Mark Cuban’s Twitter post here.)

Just a few updates & some thoughts

We are officially getting a dog! We’re going to call him Aquinas (it’s been Orlando which is just a little soft for me) and he’s currently 8 months old. If everything goes as planned he’ll come home with us next weekend. Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering, he’s a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Another exciting thing is that this week I had my advisory conference.

This is a meeting with what will likely be my dissertation committee (there could be one two members that get changed out, but that’s not very common) about my future courses and the scheduling of my general exam. It looks like this Spring I’ll take the last exam of my educational career. If that goes well and I pass the exam, I’ll be considered ABD (All But Dissertation). From there I’ll have 2 to 3 years of funding to write my dissertation and teach one class per semester. It’s still kind of weird to think that I’m this close to finishing the program. Wow.

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Have you ever wondered what happened to common, run-of-the-mill decency towards one another? I’m shocked at people that just don’t give a damn about anyone else. Think about it… Go to the grocery store parking lot and there are stray carts left all over the place, 20 ft from the cart return. How long do you think it’d take to walk that cart over? 20 seconds? 30? Drive through a construction zone and everyone thinks they have to drive in the soon-to-be-closed lane all the way until the cones force them over. Don’t they understand that if everyone just merged over as they had time that everyone would get through it faster? No, of course not because they’re to concerned that those 5 other people are going to get through the zone faster. When was the last time you’ve gone out to eat dinner and didn’t see someone (at your table or otherwise) interrupt a dinner to answer a phone call?Just an ounce of common decency would drastically change any of these situations. I’m almost certain that the cause of the lack of decency is an increase in self-centeredness. In this culture it’s terribly easy for us all to become more and more self-absorbed and forget that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Throughout the next couple of days, ask yourself how you may have allowed the me-centered culture to change your attitude toward others in a negative way.
Grace and peace,