the cross or the crown: Gary Webb and the silencing of your story

the cross or the crown: Gary Webb and the silencing of your story

"Cross or Crown" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward Although I've done other fork in the road cartoons in the past, like this one Left or Right?, you might recognize that this cartoon was inspired by an image by the insightful artist Ajit Johnson. I've done other fork in the road images before. This image captures in a nutshell the condition of popular Christian leadership today. To me, it seems to be all about reputation and revenue, speaking and success, comfort and credentials, elitism and exclusivism. And we all seem to be patting ourselves on the back on our way there! The cross means speaking truth. The crown means speaking acceptably. I watched a film last night that will have a lasting impact on me, called Kill the Messenger. It's based on the true story of the journalist Gary Webb. One of the summaries on IMDB describes the film in this way:
"Based on the True story of Journalist Gary Webb. The film takes place in the mid 1990s, when Webb uncovered the CIA's past role in importing huge amounts of cocaine into the U.S. that was aggressively sold in ghettos across the country to raise money for the Nicaraguan Contras rebel army. Despite enormous pressure not to, Webb chose to pursue the story and went public with his evidence, publishing the series "Dark Alliance". As a result he experienced a vicious smear campaign fueled by the CIA. At that point Webb found himself defending his integrity, his family, and his life."
There are a few powerful quotes in the film that express the courage it takes to tell the truth as well as its risks and dangers. There are two of them: "Some stories are too true to tell.” “You get attracted by the power. Then you get addicted to the power. Then you get devoured by the power.” Gary Webb was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Later in his life he wrote a critique of the journalism industry:
"If we had met five years ago, you wouldn't have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me ... And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job ... The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress ..."
Webb was found dead with two bullets to his head. It was ruled a suicide. Here's another article that admits some of Webb's difficulties while defending his efforts to get to the truth and publish it. "Gary embraced speaking truth to power. He believed it was the journalist role to "piss people off." He sounded the alarm..." When I was watching the film, I was overwhelmed with the parallels to what's happening in popular Christianity today. The rush seems to be towards what is popular, acceptable, palatable, agreeable, and uncontroversial. When someone tries to tell the truth, especially about our beloved systems, organizations, institutions, or leaders, the backlash is overwhelming. When people write in defense of the abused, of victims, and of survivors, the negative comeback is discouraging. The pressure to be silent is incredible. Doesn't the suppression of their stories at least suggest that maybe there might be some truth there that those in power don't want published? The film title "Kill the Messenger" suggests that not only telling your truth, but telling other peoples' truths, will be suppressed. Even if we provide spaces for someone to share their own experience and tell their own narrative, the pressure to shut down these venues has been relentlessly insistent. You wouldn't believe the powerful and persistent attempts to have me take down my post, Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What Came First, the Thug or the Theology?, where people who have historically been silenced finally found a safe space to share their experiences. Why? Because it is an embarrassment to power, as well as a threat to its unbridled privileges. By the end of the film, I decided I wanted to be as courageous as Webb was. I too want to speak truth to power. Have you been silenced? Has your story been suppressed? Join others who are freely and openly sharing their own stories at The Lasting Supper!

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