Detrich 1

The above picture, taken by photographer Allan Detrich, appeared in the Toledo Blade in March of 2007.  It shows members of the Bluffton University baseball team praying before their first home game.  This liberal arts college is located in Bluffton, Ohio, and is affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA.  Hung along the outfield fence are banners bearing the names and uniform numbers of five teammates who had died in a bus accident in Atlanta on March 2 as the team was heading to Florida for a Spring Break tournament.  Also killed in the accident were the bus driver and his wife.  The image is heavy with the emotions that the players were undoubtedly experiencing as they sought to deal with this tragic loss and move forward with their season.

Allan Detrich had worked for the Toledo Blade since 1989.  He was a four-time recipient of the Ohio News Photographer of the Year Award.  He had been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.  But, despite his credentials and achievements, questions began to arise about photos that he had submitted for publication in the print and online editions of the newspaper.  Officials at the Blade ultimately determined that they had unknowingly published 58 photos that had been digitally altered by Detrich.  To what degree were they digitally altered?  The image above provides one example.  The original photo looked like this…..

Detrich 2

As you can see, someone was standing outside the fence and behind the far right banner when the picture was taken.  I don’t know if Detrich felt that the legs beneath the banner detracted from the symmetry or the mood of the photo,  but something motivated him to digitally remove them from the photo before it was submitted for publication.  Other examples included removing a white extension cord from a shot inside a hair salon and adding a basketball to a photo from a women’s basketball game.  Legs, extension cords and basketballs; these were not exactly things that could precipitate global climate change or threaten the political stability of the nation.  Was it really such a big deal?  The editors and publishers of the Toledo Blade thought it was.  Detrich resigned in April of 2007, after nearly two decades of working for the paper.  When asked about the severity of the consequences, a Blade official said, “It has to be zero tolerance.  If you can alter one small piece of a photo, can you alter a medium size piece?  You just can’t alter at all.”  It was a matter of principle.  

Down through the centuries there have been individuals and groups who felt like the Word of God would be much more palatable and effective if certain things were removed or added.  Marcion’s anti-Jewish theology led him to reject the entire Old Testament and only accept the Gospel of Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles as canonical.  In more recent times, certain groups have claimed latter day revelation through their prophets, producing documents that, in their minds, supplement and “complete” Scripture.  Both extremes would do well to recognize and abide by the “Do Not Tamper” warnings within the Scriptures.  “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you,” (Deut. 4:2).  “Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar,” (Prov. 30:6).  “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book,” (Rev. 22:18-19). 

If the Toledo Blade can take the addition and subtraction of images of legs, extension cords and basketballs that seriously, I begin to get a sense of how exponentially greater my commitment should be to accepting and respecting the whole counsel of God without altering it to suit my tastes, preferences and comfort zone. 

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