Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Leonard Pitts Speaks to Elon University About Faith in the Media

By Megan Wanner

Pitts talks with a student after speaking at Elon University on faith in the media.

Pitts talks with a student after speaking at Elon University on faith in the media.

Pulitzer Prize winning author and columnist Leonard Pitts spoke at Elon University, N.C. about surviving journalism with faith on a range of topics including God in politics, fundamentalists’ view on God versus his own and God being bigger than we are.

God and Politics

“God is not a Republican,” Pitts said.  “God is not a Democrat.  God is not conservative.  God is not liberal.  God is God.”

When it comes to politics, Pitts says he agree with another columnist that he is “anti-stupid.”  The media uses “Christian” to define extreme conservatists, but many are much more than that.  Pitts says Christians are their own entity, politically unaffiliated as a group.

Pitts said that while God plays a part in people’s morals, which affect their political affiliation, it does not mean He supports one political view over another even though the media portrays it that way.  “It’s like God was kidnapped in the 1980s and put in the Republican Party.”

Pitts’ Faith

Pitts believes that faith is believing that there is something beyond this life and even if he cannot figure it all out, all things will work to the glory of God.  Faith is believing in something even if you cannot understand it.  “There is a yawning gap between who I imagine Him to be and who He is,” Pitts said.  “Faith falls into that gap.”

He talked about fundamentalism seeking to answer all questions with God, but that he believes God is not only the answer to some of the questions, but the questions themselves.  “God is the answer so I am listening.  God is the question so I am asking.”

Pitts decided if fundamentalists were going to use God as a reason for their actions, he was going to use his column to show who God is.  He started using his column to talk about God, then started using it to write to God.

He spoke about his disagreement with people who preached Christian love where they were not showing it and his desire is to see churches as concerned with people who are going hungry tonight as they are with gays and their wrongdoings.  He says he has a problem with churches that are conforming to the status quo instead of doing what Jesus did.  “Churches need to deal with the world as it is and get up off their satisfaction.”

God is Bigger Than Us

“There is an old joke that says, ‘If you want to give God a laugh, tell Him your plans,’” said Pitts.  “That joke speaks to the fact that we think of ourselves as in control, captain of our own ship, architect of our own destiny, but finding God, I think, requires the humility to confess that control is just an illusion.  It is to admit that we are captain of nothing, the architect of nothing.  It is to surrender to a will and a way and a wisdom that are larger than we are, to yield to the fact that God has a plan and He is not required to discuss it with you or get your permission before putting it in effect.”

Pitts discussed that as humans we are incapable of fully imagining God as our mortality cannot understand eternity.  He talks about imagining God as a humbling experience as we are not capable of fully imagining him as He is infinity and our imaginations are not.  “Imagining God is ultimately both futile and unavoidable.  Part of believing in Him is attempting to divine God’s thoughts.”

Another Opinion

Sophomore Robert Wohner commented in agreement with many of Pitts’ points.  “You have to agree that the Republicans invoke God in every aspect if you look at the basic things going on.  God is used divisively.  Religion has fueled the way you look at the world, but you have to use a bigger spectrum to judge with.”

The Speaker Himself

Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald.  In addition to receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2004, Pitts is also the five-time recipient of the National Headliners Award, the 2002 recipient of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Columnist of the Year Award, the 2002 recipient of the GLAAD Media Outstanding Newspaper Columnist Award and the 2001 recipient of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Commentary Writing.  Also in 2001, he was named Feature of the Year Columnist by Editor and Publisher Magazine.

He is the author of the book “Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood” and many series of columns including one titled “What Works?” about programs in the United States that show results in improving the lives of black children.

You can e-mail Leonard Pitts at lpitts@MiamiHerald.com or visit his website at www.leonardpittsjr.com.

Check out Pitts reading one of his “God and I” columns below:

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One response to “Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Leonard Pitts Speaks to Elon University About Faith in the Media

  1. Megan, this is an impressive and comprehensive piece of reporting on this event. Nice work! Of course the video would be much stronger if you had gotten a closer position, but in this case it serves all right because we get to hear Pitts talk and tell his story. The writing is solid. You selected good storytelling quotes and wrote strong transitions.

    When you get the time to go back over this – soon, I hope – you will want to fix the spacing between elements on the page such as subheds and copy and the captions on the videos.

    In professional media style we nearly always attribute each and every direct quotation chunk. There are several quotes where you did not use the “he said” and you need to add that in many locations throughout the piece.

    You should fix the following phrase in a couple of places:

    Pulitzer Prize-winning author
    (Note the hyphen in the compound modifier)

    Under the subhed “God and politics,” in the second paragraph, you left the “s” off the word “agrees.”

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