I have had the following debate several times with editors over the past 40 years or so, while working on news features or columns about religious issues and the believers involved in them.
In terms of reaching mainstream readers, an audience that is both secular and religious, which of the following two methods is best?
When writing the final version of the piece, should you include lots of specific facts and information about the religious beliefs and practices of the people involved, for the simple reason that these details are crucial to their lives and, thus, the story?
Or maybe you need to turn that around. Should you write about their faith in a very general way, so that more readers have a chance to get involved in the story without baggage or prejudices? After all, saying that a story focuses on a circle of "evangelical" Christians will turn off people who are angered by that whole "evangelical" thing.
For many people, this is another version of the old debate between "spiritual" storytelling and "religion" news.
Let's look at a perfect example of this debate in practice. I'm interested in how readers react to the decisions that writer Jason Tanz and the editors at WIRED made while producing the absolutely wrenching feature story called "Playing for Time." The kicker for that headline: A father, a dying son, and the quest to build the most profound videogame ever."
Yes, once again we are dealing with another "theodicy" story that revolves around ultimate questions about God, pain, evil, sickness and death -- when bad things happen to good people. The people at the center of the story are videogame pro Ryan Green, his wife Amy and Josh Larson, the co-designer of the game called "That Dragon, Cancer."