A Case Study of Media and Doctrine, Part One: Jeffress, Collins, Tebow, and Doyel’s Quest for Fifteen More Minutes

by Johnathan Pritchett

Here’s how it works:

DallasNews.com posts a story about how CBS sports writer Gregg Doyel is attacking Dr. Robert Jeffress (pastor FBC Dallas) again in his latest article regarding NBA player Jason Collins announcing to the world that he is a homosexual. Sure enough, the entire story DallasNews.com ran on Doyel versus Jeffress is based on a toss away line that Doyel launched at Jeffress, which was a mere throwback to the article that basically made this sports writer famous when he launched a tirade at NFL quarterback and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow regarding his planned appearance to speak at FBC Dallas. Now, what is important here is that the toss away line aimed at Jeffress was at the very end of his recent article regarding Collins, and yet, DallasNews.com, and others, have written entire stories focusing on Doyel criticizing Jeffress, FBC Dallas, and their views.

Here is the beauty of it all. Aside from a few wannabes jumping on Doyel’s bandwagon soon after his Tebow and Jeffress rant, most media outlets simply get to report the story of Doyel versus Jeffress and his views, but without being tagged on either side of the spectrum. They are, after all, simply reporting the news in an “unbiased” way. So they get to repeat all the remarks of Doyel against Jeffress and Tebow, and in this context, they get none of the backlash that Doyel may receive. Doyel welcomes any backlash from those who would side with Tebow and Jeffress. This puts him in the spotlight. So it is a win for him as well, because agree or disagree, you will be reading his article. So Doyel gets his 15 minutes, the other media outlets don’t get tagged one way or the other, and FBC Dallas and Jeffress get their names dragged through the mud in all the media outlets.

After the 15 minutes ended a couple months ago, Doyel is handed this gift. An NBA player comes out of the closet, and all he has to do is frame the story and narrative he wants to spin. He tosses in a throwaway jab at the very end of his article, and the media outlets once again light up with the opportunity of rehashing all the criticizing of FBC Dallas, Jeffress, and rehash the issue of homosexuality in contemporary American culture over against the views of Evangelicals regarding this issue. Obviously, they paint Evangelicals in as bad a light as possible. Doyel wants 15 more minutes, and the media is happy to give it to him. They are just reporting the news, once again, and once again, the news just so happens to fit their own agenda while they can appear “above the fray.”

Here we are, talking about it. But this is, nevertheless, a good thing. We should appreciate those like Gregg Doyel who speak openly about their opinions regarding things like this more than the media outlets that, rather than voice these opinions they probably share, simply cover the story and let the Doyels of the world do the heavy lifting while they sit back and try to cheer from behind the bleachers with these sorts of tactics. We should be happy to play along. However, we need to know the game we are playing. It is the game described above. We are being baited. We fall for it. We always fall for it. We always have a wide range of responses. We are indeed adding to the conversation, and the noise, and the rhetoric, and the hoopla of all of this Doyel and Media Circus, with their intolerant and unthinking rants against Christian Doctrine.

So be it. We should talk about these things. These sorts of things aren’t going away. More importantly, we should welcome them. It gives us the chance to talk about it. The Evangelical community, after all, speaks its mind, which is why folks like Doyel lash out. It is not as if we don’t expect this kind of thing anyway.

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In Part Two, we will examine Doyel’s criticisms, which are indeed the criticisms shared by almost all those media outlets covering Doyel’s criticisms. We will also look at the comments he reports of Jeffress that he finds so offensive. In Part Three, we will examine the spectrum of various evangelical responses to this sort of media kerfuffle. Finally, in Part Four, we will examine the consequences of all of this in regards to the Media’s framing of the issues in a way that is opposed to Christian Doctrines and the Christians who affirm them.

Johnathan Pritchett lives in Arkansas and is pursuing a Masters degree in Apologetics at Biola University, La Mirada, Calif.