I was formerly a news journalist, working at my own weekly I’d started and also worked as a features writer and photographer for the Athens daily. I was big on journalism ethics. One of the things I’d seen happen increasingly over the years is that when a reporter, photojournalist, or editor didn’t like the person being reported on, they would deliberately use disparaging adjectives, or if in a photo, select a photo that showed the person on a bad light or with a goofy expression, or in some other way, undignified.
What I understood as proper photo-journalism ethics is reflected in this excerpted photo ethics statement from the National Press Photographer’s Association–
- Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
- Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.
- Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. …
- Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. …
I personally believe that journalism and photography ethics should be applied to bloggers, including lay-bloggers with no journalism associations. And ethics is always the watchword for Christians. (Psalm 25:21).
When a newspaper publishes letters to the editor which are opinions from readers, they don’t publish all of them. A large city newspaper might receive hundreds of letters to the editor or emails opining on a recent report. Did you ever wonder how they decide to publish this one and not that one? They take the preponderance of opinion and publish a representational number. If there’s an election coming and 100 people write in that John Q. Politician is good, and 30 people write that John Q. Politician is bad, they might publish 3 of the good and one of the bad. It’s representative of the situation. That’s what newspapers do, reflect the general situation.
What I try to do when representing a person I’m blogging about in photography is find a provided head shot the subject has proffered, or some other representationally accurate photo. By that I mean it is a photo showing the person of his correct age and represents the usual stance or expression of the person. In other words, paparazzi try to find the ONE photo of a celebrity where they are in dishabille, or wearing casual clothes that make them look worse than they usually do. How does the person usually look? If you are blogging about a person regarding their work, then show them in work clothes. If you are blogging about a stay-at-home mom, then casual clothes and home setting is appropriate. Et cetera and so forth.
Representationally accurate….and now we get to Beth Moore.
Five years ago I wrote my first blog critical of Beth Moore and her teaching. As a brief rabbit trail I’ll say that back then it was one of the earliest essays anywhere on the internet critical of Beth Moore. Her teaching was bad but more subtly bad back then, and I remember having an excessively difficult time finding other essays, especially written by men, that confirmed what I saw and understood to be negative about her teaching. Five years later we all see the devastatingly satanic decline in her teaching. In this essay I’ll double down on one of the most troubling things that has declined, her teaching style.
Five years ago I’d written in part 2 of the series, “Troubled By Beth Moore’s Teaching” that I was troubled by her lack of dignity in teaching. Of all the things I’d written negatively about, her legalism, twisting scriptures, lack of transparency etc, my critical words about her teaching style drew the most heat from Moore supporters. I was excoriated for even daring to say it. Many women who wrote to me said it was unfair and improper even to rate her on style.
No, I’d pushed back, the Bible has much to say about a woman’s dignity in public. Comportment is addressed for each gender and at every age, and is especially important for leaders and teachers. This issue is specifically addressed in multiple verses.
Instructions specifically to be dignified:
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, (Titus 2:7)
The Greek word for dignity in the Titus 2 verse means:
“solemnly respectable.” reflects what has been transformed by God and exhibits “moral and spiritual gravity (gravitas)” – like what attends a deep, godly character.
Instructions for Ministers:
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;” (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
Instructions for wives of ministers:
“Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” (1 Timothy 3:11)
Instructions for aged men:
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-12)
Instructions for aged women:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” (Titus 2:3-5)
Do you get the idea that the church leaders, teachers, and elders should be dignified? I hope so. These and other scriptures are clear on the subject. Anyone who has seen a Beth Moore clip knows that her self-control and circumspectness is less than optimal. Her bio says she ‘teaches with energy and passion.’ She even calls herself obnoxious. I call it undignified. And undignified teaching is a poor witness.
Lately I’ve been seeing photos of Mrs Moore in strange and wild positions, gesticulating madly like she’s beating wasps. She stands in a hula hoop. She zanily sweeps the stage. She has participants come on stage and hold placards. She cuts up. She’s undignified.
But these photos, are they doing a Christian disservice to Moore? Let’s take a look at a few.
I decided to scan through a number of recent Moore clips. I chose different venues. I looked at Moore on a large-venue stage, intimate setting, and being interviewed. I looked at 11 or 12 of them, and noticed the same thing in each. The preponderance of her teaching style now is zany and undignified. And worse, remember that Mrs Moore is a 58-year-old grandmother. We cannot attribute her teaching style to over-exuberant youth. She should be applying Titus 2 verses to her life and her teaching behavior so as to demonstrate it to the generation coming up. Sadly, Mrs Moore completely fails in this regard.
To be fair and ethical, I looked at an equal number of clips from Kay Arthur, whom I consider to be a dignified female Christian teacher. I looked at an equal number of settings Mrs Arthur was teaching in as well- the interview, an intimate setting, a large-venue. In none of them did I find Mrs Arthur zanily sweeping the stage, standing in a hula hoop, or otherwise using inappropriate props for a Bible lesson or a Christian speech. In none of them did I see her facial expression veer to the clownish and comical, and in none of them did I see wild gesticulations like beating wasps or arms flailing as when walking into a spider web.
I also looked at Martha Peace giving a The Master’s College lecture on the subject of women discipling women, and a Susan Heck lesson. Ditto. No zaniness in sight and all those aforementioned women were dignified, comporting themselves as the Bible says an elder female teacher should.
Are there times when Beth Moore is standing behind a podium speaking in a dignified manner? Of course. Her undignified approach to teaching is not 100% saturated with zaniness every minute. I am speaking of the preponderance of time, and I am speaking of frequently, and I am speaking of representationally. Remember, in 1997 in an interview with Baptist Press, Moore herself said she is obnoxious. She has not calmed down since then, and is in fact, worse.
Now when I see a crazy photo or screen shot of Beth Moore, I have determined for myself that it’s representative of her usual teaching style. In my little exercise comparing Moore with Arthur, Peace, Fitzpatrick and Heck, it was startling to see Moore’s antics compared to the other teachers. Dignity. Sisters, dignity is a highlight of any Christian woman. No, I’m not saying that we can’t laugh or joke or have a good time. I’m not saying never to use props, but I am emphatically against them most of the time. The Bible is the only visual we need.
Christian women and especially teachers should be mindful of the grace that was bestowed on us and comport ourselves with dignity. A dignified posture is to be sought at all times, but especially when we are teaching about the Lord, who is the expression of dignity itself.