On writing...to print media, etc...
By Renton Maclachlan
1 Beware! Letter writing is addictive!
2 What is my aim? What am I trying to achieve?
2.1 Establish the credibility of the Biblical Worldview.
2.2 Destroy the credibility of other worldviews. ie. Secularism, New Ageism.
2.3 Subvert the secular culture.
2.4 Encourage Christian readers.
2.5 Give a model to Christian readers of how to conduct a public debate.
2.6 Establish my own credibility so that when I speak I get listened to.
3 Who am I speaking for? Who do I represent?
3.1 I am representing the Lord. This places a great responsibility on me. I must not ever misrepresent him to the people who read what I write. I carry his name.
3.2 I represent the community of believers in general. I am speaking in a sense as one of its mouths. Therefore it is very important that I do not misrepresent the Christian community. Of course there is a great diversity in the so-called Christian community today, and there will be Christians who do not like what is written. I must be prepared to argue my case to them if necessary.
3.3 I represent the community of believers in particular that I am directly associated with – my home church. I speak in a sense as a mouth of this church.
3.4 I represent my family – my wife, my children, and my extended family also. They carry my name and will be affected in some way by my letter writing.
3.5 I represent myself. Those who don’t know me will listen me to, if, in my letters, I establish that I am credible. If I am not credible as a person to those who do know me, my letters will not be credible to them either. My letters are an extension of me. They must convey the truth about me; otherwise they are in a sense lies. (This does not mean that I should never veil where I am coming from for a time so that I can gain an ear.)
4 What should be my Motive?
4.1 It should be so that God will be glorified.
4.1.1 Through my accurate representation of him.
4.1.2 Through him being understood to be our only legitimate object of worship.
4.1.3 Through his greatness being understood as a result of what I write.
4.1.4 Through his legitimate rule over us being understood.
4.2 It should NOT be for my glory.
4.2.1 so I can get a buzz at seeing my name in print etc.
4.2.2 so I can get name recognition, (though if writing for the right reasons, name recognition can further the cause).
4.2.3 so my cleverness in debate can be seen.
5 What should be the over-riding MOTIF under which I operate?
5.1 Personally I think it should be ‘War’. It is a war:
5.1.1 against ‘every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.’
5.1.2 between God and those who oppose God.
5.1.3 to establish who is Lord – the Creator or a creature.
5.1.4 for the minds and hearts and lives and allegiance of men and women.
5.1.5 between worldviews.
184.108.40.206 It is a war of ideas,
220.127.116.11.1 about views of reality
18.104.22.168.2 about if there is morality and if so what its basis is.
22.214.171.124.3 about if there are ultimate rules and if so who makes them and makes them stick.
5.1.6 It is an intellectual/spiritual war.
5.2 The war will normally be expressed through debate.
6 What should I shoot at?
6.1 Ideas, not people.
6.1.1 though of course ideas do not float around in a vacuum, but are carried in peoples heads and come out of their mouths and through their pens. When we speak to ideas we must of course speak to people, so our debate is with people.
6.1.2 Ideally if we can get a highly motivated, and vigorous opponent, we are made! They can be used as a foil to present our ideas to thousands of people. While we are debating them, we are really speaking past them or through them, to Joe and Josephine Blogs out there who may never write a letter to a paper.
6.1.3 Personal attack is often used in debate, but it should not be part of our armoury. Readers sympathy will be with us if we are maliciously attacked but do not reply in kind. Of course this does not mean we need to be a marshmallow wimp, or that we can’t use colourful language of our own against them at times – but not malicious name-calling.
126.96.36.199 Name-calling is not the highest form of argument.
7 What should be my aim regards the conflict/debate?
7.1 To win.
7.1.1 It is preferable never to lose a debate.
7.1.2 If you can’t win the debate, don’t enter it.
8 Why should I aim to win?
8.1 Because it is not a virtue to lose a debate in public.
8.2 Because public losses bring about widely known loss of credibility.
8.3 Because public wins establish widely known credibility.
8.4 Because it is far better to win than to lose – and also far more enjoyable.
9 How should I go about winning the debate?
9.1 Control the debate.
9.2 Go on the attack. ‘Attack is the best defense!’
9.3 Put opponents on the defensive and keep them there.
9.4 Take the high ground.
9.5 It is easier to fight downhill rather than uphill.
9.6 Those on the low ground are always at a disadvantage.
9.7 Avoid pushing buttons that will trigger knee-jerk reactions, and which get you labeled.
9.8 I seldom quote the Bible. Rather I give its ‘sense’ without telling where the ‘sense’ is coming from. The Bible is not a magic book, such that its words can be used as an incantation to produce unstoppable results.
9.8.1 While I accept the Bible as an authority, and when speaking to other Christians can appeal to its authority, the secular culture does not accept it as an authority and so there is no point appealing to it as though they do. Unless it is a very special debate I do not make the Bible a source of contention.
9.8.2 By not quoting the Bible directly, my opponents cannot get to attack it directly. I am not such a clear target for them.
9.8.3 My opponents may make assumptions about me. They may suspect that I believe the Bible, even though I have not said so, or they may know it from other debates. But by me not saying whether I do or do not accept it, they have to go out on a limb and accuse me of believing it without having hard evidence from my letters that this is the case. That is a dangerous tactic to pursue in public debate. By not revealing where I stand on this point, I gain an advantage in the debate.
9.8.4 Opponents may point to sections of the Bible they think are deemed widely unacceptable today – ie death penalty for sodomites, or worse, death penalty for those who curse their parents – then link me to those ‘unacceptable things’ and so show I am unacceptable. When these sort attacks are made, I generally side step them and attack the logic or lack thereof of their position. Except on very rare occasions, I do not try and defend the Bible in public against these sorts of charges. Issues like these are complex and not conducive to being explained easily in a super-charged debate. Therefore I absorb the attack and let the charges go without comment.
9.8.5 We can’t always escape commenting on these sort of matters however, so we need to work out where we stand on them. Wherever we stand, it must take seriously that these commands were given by God, therefore to dismiss them is no light matter. To wave a wand and say ‘we are not under law but under grace’ does not solve the problem, because such a view dismisses a huge amount of the Bible. I have difficulty with that.
9.8.6 The authority of the Bible is predicated on God existing to give it authority. The major issue today is that God is denied. Once God’s existence is established, the next level is, ‘Has God spoken?’ It’s at that point the Bible comes into the picture. I will never get onto that level of debate until the existence of God is established. Or if the debate starts off there, I take it back to the existence of God.
10 With what should I be equipped?
10.1 A comprehensive understanding of the Biblical worldview.
10.1.1 Essential to this understanding in relation to the secular culture that surrounds us, is a firm grip on the Biblical doctrine of Creation in specific terms as opposed to general terms. If we do not have this understanding, then we may as well forget about ever winning the cultural war. It is absolutely crucial we are comprehensively Biblical at this point otherwise we have lost the war before we start.
10.2 A comprehensive understanding of worldviews held by the people we debate with.
10.2.1 This means in our current situation, we must have a detailed knowledge of the Secular worldview. Specifically we must have good and current knowledge of evolutionary thought, as this is the very root of the worldviews we face. If we fail to go for, or take out, the foundations of the worldviews that oppose us, then we will never win the war. We will never be able to get at the powerhouse that drives their opposition to God. Our efforts will be just small skirmishes around the grosser manifestations of the worldview. But even then we will not be able to get to the root of the problem.
10.3 We must understand where we stand at this moment of time as regards our culture and Christianity’s place in it.
10.3.1 At this moment we have lost and are losing the cultural war. Realising this will allow us to devise strategies appropriate for this situation. I think it means we have to fight a subversive war, that is a war that subverts the dominant culture. We should be doing all we can to destabilise the secular ideas that rule at present. A subversive war is a guerrilla war. We need to pick the strategic targets, the foundations of the secular worldview. But blowing out the main supports of the worldview with precisely placed thought-bombs, we will bring the whole superstructure down. This is why the evolutionary foundations of the present dominant worldview is so crucial to target. By taking out evolutionary thought we have undercut the whole of the secular mindset, and all the problems it spawns.
10.3.2 If we have accepted evolution in anyway however, we can hardly take it out. We would be taking ourselves out at the same time! This is why so many Christians are so ineffective in the battle. They have adopted some of the enemy’s ideas, so a shot at the enemy means a shot at yourself. Not a brilliant way to fight!
10.4 A grip on logic.
10.4.1 You need this so you can detect fallacious arguments and also recognise when you are using them yourself!
10.4.2 A good idea would be to read a basic book on logic – one that outlines formal and informal fallacies, and gives illustrations of each type. One I have is, ‘Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking’, by Norman L Geisler and Ronald M Brooks, 1990, Baker Book House. There are a great many fallacious ways of arguing and you need to be on your guard against them.
10.5 A computer. The unlimited editing capabilities of a word processor enables one to greatly improve ones writing ability.
11 What is, or should be, the place of the church in this debate?
11.1 The church should be a place where soldiers are equipped for the battle.
11.2 Christians who make public statements or enter public debate must at heart be apologists (defenders of the faith).
11.3 The church should be aiming to equip as many of its people for this battle as possible. If it is to get people into the war, rather than into a cosy cuddle, it needs to train its people in apologetics (defense of the faith – which includes ‘attack with the faith’).
11.4 Apologetics should be a major and essential part of a churches teaching curriculum. If it does not have this, the church as a church (as opposed to individuals in the church) may as well forget about contributing to the cultural advance of the Gospel. It will effectively be a backwater sub-culture.
12 How do I get into the debate?
12.1 Two ways. Either:
12.1.1 Provoke controversy. Initiate the debate. Bop someone on the intellectual nose. Pick a fight. Dangle a bait in front of those you want to confront. Someone is bound to rise to it if you are provocative enough.
12.1.2 React to what others are saying.
12.2 Productive doors through which to enter into the debate:
12.2.1 Moral issues – endless opportunities.
188.8.131.52 Push people to the logic of their presuppositions.
184.108.40.206 Right and wrong? Do such things exist?
220.127.116.11 Moral relativism verses moral absolutes.
18.104.22.168 Man as an insufficient basis for meaningful morality.
22.214.171.124 Any particular moral issue ie.
126.96.36.199.1 Homosexuality – acceptable or not? – and why not if not?
188.8.131.52.2 Abortion – what’s at stake – the nature, worth of human beings.
12.2.2 Origins issues
184.108.40.206 Has the world been made or has It not?
220.127.116.11 Complex design refutes evolutionary Ideas.
18.104.22.168 Origin of information refutes philosophical materialism.
22.214.171.124 Search for life in space is a great one. Strongly supports our case.
126.96.36.199 ‘Please tell me what are the reputed evolutionary processes?’
188.8.131.52.1 ‘What must they achieve?’
184.108.40.206.2 ‘Can they achieve what you want?’
220.127.116.11.3 ‘Have they been verified?’
18.104.22.168.4 Is it really scientifically feasible for them to achieve what you want?
22.214.171.124.5 What about the laws of science in relation to claimed evolutionary processes?
126.96.36.199 The origin of human beings.
188.8.131.52.1 Created not evolved.
184.108.40.206.2 Evolution charts are frauds.
13 How do I pick what to debate?
13.1 Good question! Let the Lord inspire you. Sometimes I have had virtually complete letters jump into my mind when reading something. Other times I have to really slog at it.
13.2 My friend, the late Dr Wilder-Smith, once said, ‘You can’t kick every dog!’ That’s a good motto. In other words, you do not need to fight every person who puts their head up as a target, only the ones who are the best targets. Sometimes however there is only one to target, so you hit them.
14 How should I fight?
14.3 With humour –
14.3.3 Pointing out stupid or illogical ideas (presupposes we can pick them out and are logical ourselves!).
14.4 Be precise about who you target. For example, if men write against feminists and feminism, they need to ensure that the comments they make do not put down women in general, otherwise they have targeted their own women folk – mothers, wives, daughters, women at church etc.
14.5 Do not take offence at anything anyone says.
14.5.1 If you offend easily, either stop being so prickly, or simple stay out of the debate. There is no place for people who offend easily in this war.
14.5.2 You have to be secure enough in yourself – thick skinned – to able to take abuse and name-calling and let it wash off you without it touching you.
14.5.3 You have to be able to be pummeled and cop it on the chin, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back into it. There are times you are going to really take the hits. There are people out there who are really committed to putting you down and down hard – no holds bared! You must be able to withstand their personal attacks.
14.5.4 Do not allow any personal attacks to make you angry.
15 Should I fight alongside others?
15.1 I prefer, in public debates, to fight alone. That way I can have greater control of the debate and do not fall if others make mistakes etc. I very seldom link myself to others. Sometimes I will come in on a debate that others have started, but stay independent. Anyway, word counts are limited and seeing every word is precious, why waste them on your friends. You can talk to your friends any day.
15.2 I was in a long debate in the Nelson Evening Mail on Creation/Evolution. Someone on the other side chucked into the debate the hoary old chestnut, ‘If God made the world, who made God?’ That maybe warrants a one-sentence response, but a Christian woman I know wrote a letter to answer it, and said, “We don’t know!” Now with all due respect, that is not only a very dumb answer, it is plain wrong! God by definition is unmade. Rather than correct her in public, I wrote to her and pointed out the error of her ways. It is because there are some loose cannons out there who do not have the insight to know when they are shooting themselves in the foot, that I prefer to fight alone.
16.1 Stay within the publications word limit, and requirements for letters ie. one side of page etc. Sometimes they will allow you to go over the word limit, but when starting out don’t push your luck in that regard.
16.1.1 The easier you make it for the editor the more likely you will get published. For example, if you don’t have a computer or typewriter, print rather than write your letter. If you have a computer, use a big font e.g. 14 point – but make sure it is on one page only. If it spills onto another page, the letter is either too long, or the margins are too narrow. Make the letter on the page look attractive ie proper relation of address to text etc.
16.1.2 Editors are concerned about maintaining or increasing the readership of their paper. A vigorous debate will make readers interested and so further the editors ends. I’m sure this is why several times I have had debates that have gone far far beyond the time frame normally allowed for debates
16.1.3 Short letters are more likely to be published than long ones.
16.1.4 Letters relating to editorials more likely to be published than others.
16.1.5 While letters may refer to material from outside the publication you are writing to, mostly they will be in response to something they have already published.
16.2 I always publish over my own name, never a pseudonym. If I’m not prepared to write over my own name I’m not prepare to write.
16.3 Go for the main issues – the foundations of the worldviews that oppose us.
16.3.1 Avoid trivial issues. Letters you write on trivial issues seem to detract from letters you write on significant issues. Reserve comment for important issues only.
16.4 Must address one issue only in a letter.
16.4.1 Side issues or remarks only clutter up what you are trying to say. Clarity is the essence of the exercise.
16.5 Have only one debate going in a particular publication at a time. If you are a tiger for punishment you could have different debates going in different publications at the same time however!
16.6 Even though a letter may be part of a debate, it must stand on its own. A person who has not seen the rest of the debate – or the item that sparked the letter, must be able to read the letter and understand clearly what is going on. Therefore the letter must:
16.6.1 Summarise what has already been said, or what the issue – the point of contention – is. 1st paragraph.
16.6.2 Why this point or idea is dumb or wrong must be addressed. 2nd (and maybe 3rd) paragraph.
16.6.3 Finally the letter must provide a clear alternative or resolution to the problem at issue. 3rd paragraph.
16.6.4 Of course a letter may have more than 3 paragraphs but this outline still applies.
16.7 Your writing must be interesting, clever, provocative etc. – in short, a work of literary art.
16.7.1 At times you can make it have a poetic ring about it. Choose words that complement each other and a word order that gives words a lilt or nice sound about them when together.
16.7.2 Letters to editors are often read out loud to others, “Hey hubby! Listen to what this bloke is saying in the paper tonight…” Therefore your letter should read well when read out loud. It is in these sort of situations that a poetic ring will be particularly effective. I said a ‘poetic ring’, not that the letter should be poetry.
220.127.116.11 So read the letter out loud. If you stumble over words, rewrite that section until it flows together so you don’t stumble.
18.104.22.168 Keep your sentences shortish. If you have to take a breath in the middle of a sentence, the sentence is too long. Cut it in half and make two shorter ones out of it.
22.214.171.124 If you have difficulty keeping track of what you referred to at the beginning of the sentence, others will also. The sentence is too long. Cut it in half.
16.8 Should aim to provoke response. This means:
16.8.1 You do not have to say everything in one letter. Hopefully you will get another shot.
16.8.2 You need to know generally where you are heading.
16.8.3 You need to anticipate the sort of angle attacks will come from.
126.96.36.199 You may write inviting attack, what I call, ‘dancing on the trenches’. You don’t know necessarily who or where the attack is going to come from, so you ‘dance on the trenches’ to drawn fire so that you get a clearly identified target. Once that has been achieved, you then you call up your big guns to blow them away.
16.9 One way to get a response is to ask your opponent a question, or ask them to explain themselves. That makes them write again and gives you another shot. It also sort of obligates the editor to publish the responses. If they published the question, they really should publish the answer, and the response to it. However you take a risk here. They may publish the answer, but not allow you another go!
16.10 Don’t assume that you know the thoughts of your opponent beyond what they have revealed in their letter. Respond to their revealed thoughts, not ones you think they have. You may be wrong! For example, you may know your opponent is a liberal, and therefore denies the resurrection of Christ, accepts evolution, etc. If they haven’t told you this, don’t tell them that this is what they believe – or disbelieve. If you strongly suspect what they believe, you can ask them a question that will get them to reveal their thoughts. Then you can respond to them.
16.11 Don’t stereo-type your opponent. While people can be catagorised into general basic ways of thinking, each person is an individual and will hold their defining beliefs with more or less strength. Try and be true to them as the person they are with the actual beliefs they hold, not ones you presume they hold.
16.12 Write clearly. Avoid ambiguity – unless it is a conscious strategy to provoke response.
16.13 Understating things is far far better than overstating them.
16.14 Avoid jargon and clichés like the plague!
16.15 Generally do not use big or complicated words. The aim is to communicate, not show how good your vocab is.
16.16 If you’re quoting, make sure the quote is 100% correct.
16.17 Don’t try and be too smart. Smarty-pants don’t go down well.
16.18 Do not parade your knowledge. It shows up as arrogance.
16.19 Do not be supercilious or snooty nosed.
16.20 But you can put people down if they deserve it.
16.21 When starting out, get friends to tell you what they think of what you have written before you send it off. Get them to check for any breakdown in logic, any ambiguities, and sentences that are not clear or are too long etc. Ask them to be hard on you and to tell you exactly what they think. Don’t let their comments discourage you into giving up. Learn from them and go on. It is better to be beaten up by friends than by enemies.
16.22 You need to be willing to listen to criticism. You don’t always need to follow it, but you need to listen to it. Sometimes it is a bit hard to take!!!
16.23 If you’re writing at night, it is not a bad idea to sleep on it – that is, delay posting, faxing or emailing. As you lie in bed with it going over in your mind, you often think of better ways to say things, or even pick up mistakes. In the morning, when you look at it again, you may see things you didn’t see the night before. If you are mulling it over before you go to sleep and you do think of a good point or way of saying something, get up and note it down straight away. Inevitably you’ll forget what it was, though you will remember you had a good thought!!
16.24 After you have substantially finished – or even have finished your letter, carefully re-read the item or letter you are responding to to make sure that you have understood correctly what it says, or have connected with a point that has been made. Sometimes it is possible that you will get so wrapped up in writing, and re-writing your letter and developing your arguments etc, that you deviate away from the points you began responding to. After some time of this you may have actually cut the connection to them, and what you have written is actually off at a tangent. If this has happened and you mail it and it gets published, you are a sitting duck for getting minced up, and rightly so.
16.25.1 If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and extricate yourself as fast as possible from it, so that you can regain the initiative.
16.25.2 A mistake hands control of the debate to the opposition. Don’t make them.
16.25.3 Oversights or unintentional ambiguities (as opposed to mistakes) however can sometimes open the door to allow greater explanation.
16.26 Do not concede or submit to language hijackers. i.e. be very careful about terms like ‘gay’, ‘sexual orientation’, ‘woman’s choice’ etc. Also the language of ‘compassion’ has been co-opted by those promoting abortion and euthanasia with the effect that those opposing this degrading of the value of life are seen to be hard and unmerciful. The tactic needs to be exposed.
16.26.1 By using terms controlled by others you have submitted to their control of the terms.
16.26.2 Which means you need to know the aims of the language hijackers so as to be able to subvert or counteract their aims.
16.27 As a general rule don’t shoot at other Christians in the public media – unless they are peddling error or confusing an issue and you want to disassociate yourself from their error or clarify the issue they have confused.
16.28 Don’t give up just because you don’t get a letter published. While publication may be one aim of the exercise, other things occur as well during it.
16.28.1 You are clarifying your own thinking and developing your thinking abilities.
16.28.2 You are developing your debating skills.
16.28.3 You are coming to grips with another persons thought.
16.28.4 You are developing comprehension skills which enable you to extract the points of contention and home in on them.
16.28.5 If you are writing on a computer, you are producing a store of potentially usable and helpful material.
16.29 Don’t just make a one shot comment or judgment about something. While it is commendable to let your thoughts be known, to simply make a statement opens you up to a fall. Some opponent could very well come in and mince you up. What will you do then? You must write in such a way that you can respond when the attack comes. It may very well come – and with great ferocity!! I know! I have seen it happen. I have had to rescue a number of people from such a fate!
16.29.1 Aim to trigger response so you can have another go. It is the meeting of minds we should be aiming at, and which creates the dynamic that gets people to read.
16.29.2 I love it when secular people come in thinking that with a statement they can blow us all away. It is when they are confident like this that they are open to their worst nightmares – public humiliation – but don’t realise it.
16.29.3 Aim for three letters back and forth. In major papers you very rarely get them but you may get an interchange of two. The Lord can engineer it so that you can have long debates. I have had several.
16.30 Create mystery – ‘Where is this guy coming from?’ Never tell people where you are coming from. Let them try and work it out. Saying things like, ‘I’m a born again Christian.’ is an absolute no no. Such a declaration does your position no good and goes down like a lead balloon.
16.31 Seldom waste words confirming or denying any labeling of you.
16.32 Surprise people by your willingness to articulate what they think you won’t. The Biblical prophets used some surprisingly frank and descriptive terms!
16.32.1 The expectation of many people – even Christians – is that we must be soft, namby pamby, marshmallow in what we say. “Christians don’t say things like that!” Shock horror! Shock them by, at times and when appropriate, being sharp, incisive, penetrating, blunt – not just for the sake, or the hang of it, but because the situation calls for it. What I am referring to here is that our speech should have tang, ‘be seasoned with salt’. The Biblical injunctions against foul language and swearing etc. apply and should never be part of our vocab. But that doesn’t mean we should not use legitimate tangy language!
17 Letters to Radio programs.
There is another type of letter writing that can occur. Some Radio programs have a slot where listeners can respond to the program. Letters, faxes, or emails are sent in to the station and the host and/or producer selects out those that they will read on air. Some programs get a considerable amount of mail and so as only a few pieces will be read out (3 – 5 at the most) the letter will have to be particularly pertinent and brief to get chosen. This is a very different situation to writing a letter to a paper and has particular dangers involved with it.
17.1 The letter generally must directly relate to what has been carried on the program – nothing particularly special about that.
17.2 You are completely in the hands of the host who will read your letter out. Unlike a letter in a paper or magazine, it becomes a spoken letter:
17.2.1 will have voice intonation, which you as writer have no control over. This can determine to a very large measure how your letter will be perceived/received by the listeners.
17.2.2 can be interrupted, so explanatory/derogatory comments can be made, depending on whether the host is sympathetic or unsympathetic towards what you are saying. Such comments can again, determine how the letter will be received.
17.3 If the host is unsympathetic to Christianity, DO NOT:
17.3.1 demonize the radio station or the host or the program. Doing so will make you reactionary towards them, and will put you into an accusative mode of writing. You will be a sitting duck for being put down very firmly in public.
17.3.2 put the radio station or the host into a box and nail it shut. Yes, they may be anti-Christian, pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-homosexual, pro-everything-God-is-against, but they are still human, and have a history, which has brought them to where they are. Perhaps unbeknown to you, they are bitter and twisted against Christians because they had some genuinely bad experience of some ‘Christian’ somewhere. There are plenty of Christians around who will give such bad experiences! Perhaps they have been through an abusive church, and there are plenty of churches that abuse! Perhaps they are stridently atheistic in public but have severe doubts about their atheism privately (atheists have doubts!). You do not know the complex mix that has gone to produce this person as they are at this moment, so do not presume to. If you do you will just be seen as arrogant, and be dismissed. Do you want to be heard, or dismissed?
17.3.3 write as though from an uptight, bitter and twisted sub-culture that is excluded from positions of privilege and power in public media, and who out of frustration at your excluded position, throw bombs indiscriminately.
17.3.4 use negative emotional or derogatory terms of the Station or the Host or the program. The majority of those who listen to the program listen because they like the host etc, and so will be predisposed against your comments.
17.4 Any of the above points can be handles that the host can get a hold on and twist to his advantage. You must refrain from giving the host any such handles to hold. I will give an example: The radio host is an outspoken atheist of long standing. He is an older man, who in his younger years was an inflammatory talkback host. He has mellowed and now hosts the most popular radio show in the country because of the in-depth, thoughtful interviews he does, and the homely, interesting, and cultured sections he has on his program. He is provocative, incisive and can be blunt, yet is generally respectful to those he interviews who hold different views to his own. He is liberal politically and finds the death penalty abhorrent. One day he slag’s of at a Christian Political Party because they have a very measured death penalty provision for the crime of murder. He accuses them of being medieval, unchristian, and a number of other things in quite inflammatory terms. He is without question using his position of privilege to denigrate this Party. How can the Parties sympathisers respond?
17.4.1 They can call him names and say, “What else can we expect from a person like you?” They could also say that unless he repents he will go to hell! Some of the things said like this may very well be true, but they are totally inappropriate to be said in this sort of forum. He can respond that the people who are writing in really are quite nasty people – “…you just listen to some of the things they’ve said to me!” And so your strident, inappropriate comments, get dragged before 700,000 people and ridiculed, and the Political Party gets some very serious negative PR hits.
17.4.2 Alternatively they can say they note the comments he has made and go on to address the issues he is foaming about in a totally objective rational way, without any emotion or accusations at all. When these sort of comments are read out, the objectivity and rational nature of them will be recognised and be far more likely to be heard by listeners favourably. The Party will be seen to hold a different but reasonable position and will not be dismissed lightly.
17.5 It is absolutely imperative that letters to programs like the above be thought about extremely carefully. They are one-shot statements that potentially can do a great deal of good because of their wide audience, but for the same reason can do a huge amount of harm.
8 How much time should I spend at it?
18.1 Be prepared to spend hours and hours writing a letter, particularly when you are learning. Some letters have taken me ten hours to write. Think of it this way. Your letter could be read by 20000 people, from Members of Parliament down (or up, depending on what you think of them! It’s true! Some Members of Parliament read – letters to editors). Now if you were going to give a talk to 20000 people, how long would you spend preparing for it? Ten minutes, or ten hours, or a hundred hours? And just think. By one well-written letter to a paper you can put an aspect of the Biblical worldview to that sort of number of people. 20000!!! – and perhaps more! If it is a letter to a radio station and the comment potentially can go on air almost immediately – through being faxed to the station – clearly you do not have much time. But because you don’t have much time you have to be very, very careful in what you say, and particularly, how you say it. If the comment is for another day or week, greater time can be spent, and letting other people read it could be helpful if you are not used to writing objectively. Remember, an audience of several hundred thousand is a big audience!
18.2 The most important thing is that the letter is tight and right. Therefore you spend as much time as is necessary to get it that way.
19 You want to reach a stage such that when people see your name under a letter, they will read it whether or not they agree with you.
20 So turn off the TV – better still, put a bullet through it – and start reading good Christian books that will equip you for the fray.
If you never start, you will never begin to learn how to go about it.
If you start, and continue, you will be surprised in ten years how far you have come.
21 GO FOR IT!!!!!!!!!!!!…………