Christians should ponder Katherine Maher’s position on truth

Katherine Maher was hired as CEO and President of National Public Radio (NPR) in March of this year and is already making national headlines. She is forty years old and worked previously for Web Summit and as chair of the board of directors at the Signal Foundation. She was married last year to an attorney and stepped into her job at NPR a month ago.

Why should NPR’s brand philosophy matter to Christians?

NPR has existed since 1971. It was a product of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. When Johnson signed the Act he said, “Today we rededicate a part of the airwaves—which belong to all the people—and we dedicate them for the enlightenment of all the people. I believe the time has come to stake another claim in the name of all the people, stake a claim based upon the combined resources of communications. I believe the time has come to enlist the computer and the satellite, as well as television and radio, and to enlist them in the cause of education.”

NPR’s original purpose, according to its board of directors, was to “provide an identifiable daily product which is consistent and reflects the highest standards of broadcast journalism.” It was established as a non-profit but, due to significant budget issues in the early 1980’s, became largely supported by donations from listeners, charitable foundations, and corporations. Eventually the donors’ opinions began to influence the programming. 

In 2004 a Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting study reported that “NPR’s guestlist shows the radio service relies on the same elite and influential sources that dominate mainstream commercial news and falls short of reflecting the diversity of the American public.”

When the brand philosophy changes, so does the purpose.

Katherine Maher was on Ted Talk in 2022 when she gave her opinion about the importance of truth in journalism. She said, “Perhaps for our most tricky disagreements, seeking the truth and seeking to convince others of the truth might not be the right place to start. In fact, our reverence for the truth might be a distraction that’s getting in the way of finding common ground and getting things done.”

Every Christian would agree that we are surrounded by “tricky disagreements” in this world. Jesus sent his disciples into their culture saying, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Our purpose as disciples is to share the truth of God’s word with others. If we, as Katherine Maher suggests, see truth as a distraction that is “getting in the way of finding common ground,” we would be altering our purpose.

Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). The only way we can truly be a disciple of Christ is to “abide” in his word. When we allow the opinions of others to influence truth, we have ceased to abide or dwell in the truth of Christ. And Jesus said it was his truth that would set us free. 

Our opinions do not lead people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Our practical purpose as a disciple will change if our definition of truth isn’t biblical. Jesus said, “abide in my word.” The outcome of our testimony might bring people to church and even to a better life on earth, but if our testimony is anything other than the perfect truth of God’s word, we might not have brought that person to an understanding of their need for saving faith in Christ. 

“Bothsidesism” isn’t a biblical option

My husband wrote an article in 2020 saying, “A writer for the Columbia Journalism Review made an impassioned argument last December against “bothsidesism,” the journalist philosophy that “both sides” of a story should be covered objectively and fairly.” The writer went on to say that “the top duty of a journalist was to fight for the truth.” 

The problem: the journalist’s definition of truth was actually whatever opinion or position the journalist wanted to take on a subject. 

Christian disciples cannot be wise as serpents unless we realize the overwhelming need to abide in biblical truth rather than public opinion. The truth about Jesus sets people free and opinions will not. 

As you consider your own witness, is it completely based on the truth of God’s word, or has it been softened by the opinions of our culture? “Bothsidesism” isn’t an option for a Christian. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In the original language, the word translated “the” means “the only” way, “the only” truth, and “the only” life. If we share any other truth, we have not shared the truth about Christ.

Christians will not be “harmless as doves” if we are seeking to win an argument rather than seeking to win others to Christ. It’s usually a fine line and therefore easy to miss. If our goal is to win an argument, we will likely enter whatever arena is presented and fight with whatever weapons are necessary to win the battle. If our goal is to win a soul for Christ, we will stick to the truth—ALL the truth of God’s word. A dove doesn’t cause harm, and neither should our words.

What is your position on truth?

Our position on truth is defined not just by what we believe personally but by what we share with others.

Jesus came to his disciples and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Jesus issues the same call to his disciples today. His word has “all authority,” and we have been commanded to speak his truth. When we do, Jesus himself is with us, helping us always to serve him wisely. 

Our position on truth is directly related to our position with Christ. Are you abiding in the truth, the way, and the life? If so, his truth has set you free. Wisely, gently, share the truth with a culture that, like Katherine Maher, has lost “reverence for the truth.”