Thank you, CNN, for the Freedom Project

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Folks can be hard on “the media.”

And I’m not just talking about Jon Stewart. 

Christians especially tend to get a bit paranoid and demanding when it comes to media coverage of religion. In fact, there’s an entire Web site devoted to exposing all the ways in which “the press just doesn’t get religion.”

The problem with this view, of course, is that “the media” is not one monolithic blob of evil. It’s made up of individual reporters—each with his or her own background, assumptions, strengths, weaknesses, histories, viewpoints, and expertise. 

Back when I worked at a daily paper in Chattanooga, I got an email from a Christian woman who lambasted me for using the word “holiday” instead of “Christmas” in an article about college students taking advantage of seasonal job opportunities in retail.

“THIS IS ALL PART OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA’S CONSPIRACY TO TAKE CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS!” she screamed in all-caps, unaware of the fact that the reporter she was harassing was a Christian college graduate who had interned at WORLD magazine of all places, and who, at least at the time, attended church every Sunday and spent her lunch hour witnessing to coworkers. The lady saw an agenda where she wanted to see one. 

So, perhaps because of my journalistic background, I like to point out when a media outlet does somethingright. 

And CNN is doing something right with The Freedom Project. 

Despite the fact that stories like these don’t drive ratings the way stories about Snooki and Etch-A-Sketches do, CNN has devoted a blog and a series of reports to exposing and combating modern day slavery. (You can learn more about the purpose of The Freedom Project here.)

This week, reporter John D. Sutter and photographer Edythe McNamee delivered a stunning and informative story on Mauritania, a country in which an estimated 10-20 percent of its population lives in slavery.

This was followed up by a post about how to help end slavery in Mauritania.

CNN routinely partners with and praises the work of organizations like International Justice Mission, Not For Sale, and World Relief, and has issued several flattering portraits of  “the new Christian abolition movement.”

“Motivated in large part by their religious traditions of protecting the vulnerable and serving ‘the least of these,’ as Jesus instructed his followers to do in the Gospel of Matthew,” writes Eric Marrapodi, “World Relief and other Christian agencies like the Salvation Army are stepping up efforts and working with law enforcement to stem the flow of human trafficking, which includes sex trafficking and labor trafficking.” 

The Freedom Project blog serves as a good starting-point for learning more about modern-day slavery, and I highly recommend subscribing to it. There you will find:  

Informative charts and graphs
Haunting photos and videos of life in slavery
Slavery in the news
How you can help

CNN is also great at exposing the fact that human trafficking is a worldwide problem, not limited to a few third world countries or far-away regions, and at sharing the inspiring stories of men and women who have worked within their own communities to push for reform. 

Joining together to end modern-day slavery has become an important cause among Christians across the political and denominational spectrum. I am grateful that in this case, “the media”—or at least CNN— is not only paying attention, but also helping us become  more informed and better equipped as we pray and work for change.

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