Laurie Toby Edison

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The Faith Sentence: Let Us Tell You What to Think

Lynne Murray says:

I worked as a reporter for a Buddhist newspaper during my fanatical religious days in the early 1970s. Anyone who wanted could write an article for the paper, but some of us loved doing it and managed to secure unpaid staff positions.

No one trained us. We watched and discussed what articles were accepted and how they were changed by the national staff when they showed up in print. Eventually we figured out what to write. Every article had to end with what we called the “faith sentence.” With the sect-specific buzz words removed, this sentence usually read: “Everyone at the meeting left with renewed determination to work for world peace.” If this sentence was missing, an editor at the national office would add it.

If you think we were cynical about our own religious publication, you would be right. Our articles were the polar opposite of investigative journalism, yet when I saw All The President’s Men, I recognized the same smart-ass, radical camaraderie from our pressroom. I think that the sheer act of reporting encourages people to look for the story behind the story. It probably also helped us move from the brainwashed to the fluff dried seating section of the Buddhist group.

Working for a cult newspaper brought us zero prestige–you sure couldn’t put it on your resume. But the friendships from those insanely dedicated days still endure after 35-plus years, and the experience of writing propaganda sharpens up your ear to know it when you hear it.

The Faith Sentence is alive and well in news reports when the writer wants to draw a conclusion unsupported by the facts. It really stands out for me when the national media reports on scientific studies that explode diet myths such as the 2003 Harvard Medical School study which concluded that “dieting to control weight is not only ineffective, it may actually promote weight gain.”

The Harvard study was invariably reported in the national media with a faith sentence tacked on stating: “Of course, we all know the way to maintain a healthy weight is by eating less and exercising frequently.”

Even the Harvard study itself throws a self-contradicting faith sentence into the last paragraph, no doubt aimed at the militant diet fanatics (and purveyors of diets for children) in the medical community: For children and adolescents who are overweight, diets carefully supervised by a clinician may be beneficial and appropriate…

In other words, “our data shows that dieting makes kids fatter in the long run, but if the kids are already fat, hey, go ahead.”

Joanne Ikeda boils the Harvard study down to its essentials on page 41 of her excellent Health at Every Size paper about health and weight. And she doesn’t need to give us a “faith sentence”; rather, she lets the facts speak for themselves.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled, nationally accepted delusions.

2 Responses to “The Faith Sentence: Let Us Tell You What to Think”

  1. twilightriver Says:

    YES! This. Exactly!

    Thank you.

  2. Stef Says:

    Awesome post. I am so glad to have a name for that little tag line.

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