Religion Unplugged

Bible in one hand, newspaper in the other: Tips for stressed-out preachers

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

Editor’s note: Every Friday, “Weekend Plug-in” features analysis, fact checking and top headlines from the world of faith. Subscribe now to get this newsletter delivered straight to your inbox. Got feedback or ideas? Email Bobby Ross Jr. at therossnews@gmail.com.

“You preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”

That’s what Bishop Timothy Clarke, an Ohio senior pastor, said in a recent front-page feature by Danae King, the Columbus Dispatch’s religion writer.

It’s an idea that originated with the late Karl Barth, one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. Barth put it this way: “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”

Barth’s concept was a prominent theme of a Facebook Live panel discussion organized this week by the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University in Texas.

“We used to think the hard part was interpreting the Bible, but now we’ve decided the hard part is interpreting the newspaper,” quipped Randy Harris, one of the co-hosts, along with Carson Reed, of the discussion on “Light, Truth and Fake News.”

The panel — on which I was honored to speak — aimed to help stressed-out ministers make sense of the news in a time of polarization and conspiracy theories.

“Read broadly. Value truth,” urged Cheryl Mann Bacon, a Christian Chronicle correspondent and retired journalism chair at Abilene Christian. “Be compassionate when you share it, but be courageous when you share it.”

Co-host Harris is a longtime preacher and spiritual director who works with the Siburt Institute.

He advised: “Pay attention to local news. We can get caught up with what’s happening in Washington, but there’s stuff that’s happening in your town that needs a response. The second thing is, to ministers: You’ve made a commitment to read the news through a certain lens, and that’s the lens of a crucified and risen Messiah.”

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.

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