There's a relatively new field in journalism that aims to help the depressed reporter. "Trauma journalism" emerged in the late 2000s in part to understand how reporters cope with witnessing war and natural disasters. Posttraumatic stress disorder and substance abuse are not uncommon among journalists on the frontlines of suffering.
As Christian journalists, we are bent on telling the whole truth about the church in the world. For that, we sometimes feel like we need our own kind of trauma counseling. Every time we hear that the bride of Christ has embezzled funds, had an affair, or fudged the truth to gain political power, we are tempted to grow cynical about her witness.
So when an established journalist comes to us with truly good news—especially good news that emerged from really bad news—we listen up. And then we put it on our cover.
You may not recognize the name New Life Church, but chances are you know the name Ted Haggard. Nearly a year before the pastor's highly public moral fallout, we put him on our cover. He and New Life, his then-booming Colorado Springs megachurch, seemed to signal an optimistic, entrepreneurial turn for evangelicalism.
Patton Dodd was close to the tragic events that unfolded after that. Too close, in fact: Up until four months before the scandal broke, Dodd was Haggard's ghostwriter and media liaison. Afterward, "I didn't attend the church for years," says Dodd.
Then, two years ago, Dodd started showing up at New Life at the behest of friends who had stayed. "After a handful of experiences of sitting in services, weeping in the face of remarkable change, I knew a new story was beginning to take shape," Dodd told me. Beginning on page 36 of this issue, we are privileged to share that story with you.
The truth is, national media feast on trauma. It's unlikely that The New York Times and Fox News will pick up on the New Life story. It lacks a celebrity and a major conflict. It is decidedly small, grassroots, and unflashy. "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" (to quote Eugene Peterson, a mentor to many New Life staff) doesn't make for a sexy headline. But it is a true headline, one that summarizes life in countless U.S. churches. "They don't become part of our waking reality as we think of 'American churches,' but those churches are a huge part of the lifeblood of faith in this country," says Dodd.
To all the church leaders, members, and volunteers who serve Christ faithfully without any media noticing: Thank you for giving CT a chance to report good news. We know that for every story of a pastor's moral failing, there are hundreds of yours left untold.
Follow Katelyn Beaty on Twitter @KatelynBeaty
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