Christian Americans paved the way for the free press not only in America.
Is it a forgotten story? Or has it been conveniently ignored by most history books?
By the middle of the 18th century, a new style of bold, independent journalism was spreading through the colonies and would play a significant role in the coming War of Independence.
One of the principal players was Samuel Adams. No, he was not a brewer. He was not a pub owner. He was a pioneering American journalist – and Christian.
Just how important was this budding free press in the American colonies to the future of the new nation?
“The 23 small newspaper in colonial America scarcely seemed to be a formidable enemy for the British empire 10 years before the first volley at Concord bridge,” wrote Columbia University journalism professor John Hohenberg in his book, “Free Press, Free People: The Best Cause,” back in 1971. “Nevetheless, these few printing shops became the forge of American liberty.”
And after the revolution?
Early 19th century American journalism was characterized by a Christian worldview. This was (until Marvin Olasky’s “Prodigal Press”) one of the great untold, covered-up stories of all time. Who would believe in today’s secular world of media that their predecessors – their pioneers – the very people who gave us the legacy of a free press were mainly a bunch of “fundamentalist Christians”?
New York City alone had 52 magazines and newspapers that called themselves Christian in this time period, Olasky documents. Between 1825 and 1845, more than a hundred cities and towns in America had Christian newspapers.
As Olasky wrote: “In the early 19th century, American journalism often was Christian journalism.”
But here’s the real shocker: Did you know that the New York Times, today the bible of secular liberalism, was founded as a crusading anti-abortion, Christian newspaper in 1851?
The founder was Henry Raymond. Under his leadership the paper became known for accurate news coverage. Though abortion was illegal in New York at the time, the practice was widespread – until the barbaric underground business was exposed by Times reporter Augustus St. Clair in a story called “The Evil of the Age.”
As a result of the series, “New Yorkers would bury the abortion business for several generations,” Olasky writes in his book.
Are you shocked?
You shouldn’t be.
Do you know how many times the word “truth” is used in the Bible?
By my count, 224 times.
And isn’t the pursuit of truth what free and independent journalism is supposed to be about?
It’s not about “fair and balanced.”
It’s not about “keeping up with current events.”
It’s not about “objectivity.”
It’s about truth.
Truth is even one of the names for God.
- “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” [Exodus 34:6]
- “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” [Deuteronomy 32:4]
- “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” [Psalm 31:5]
- “That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes.” [Isaiah 65:16]
- Jesus refers frequently to the Holy Spirit as “the spirit of truth.”
There are many people walking around the world today asking the question Pilate asked of Jesus: “What is truth?” They wonder if there is any truth – because they wonder if God is real.
I can’t speak for anyone else in the profession of journalism, but I don’t want to be like Pilate, who washed his hands after staring Truth in the eye.
I prefer to be like Jesus who said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Knowing Jesus is, of course, knowing the Truth with a capital T.
And knowing Him will help you discern truth in a world of lies.