Turn off the news

I haven’t blogged in quite a while, but I was inspired today by something my daughter wrote.

If you are a member of FBC, you may have heard me say in the past that I believe Christians watch too much news.  By “news,” I mean the 24 hour news cycle on television.  I also mean the opinion shows we devour: Hannity, O’Reilly and their buddies on the right, Maddow, Sharpton and their ilk on the left.  And I mean the websites that funnel us stories that we love to read and share on social media (by the way, if you want to see where your favorite news site ranks in terms of bias, here’s an interesting graphic: Media bias chart).  The problems are two-fold: First, that they amp up our anxiety.  We think the world is coming to an end.  Second, and more importantly, they poison our spiritual lives.  Look at it this way: Most Christians I know would quickly turn off a TV show that contained gratuitous nudity, sex, or profanity.  They would say, “I don’t need to put this into my brain, because it won’t produce character qualities that are pleasing to Christ.”  And rightfully so.  But these shows and websites are even more damaging, in my opinion.  They cause us to fear and hate people who are on the opposite side of issues from us.  Jesus said one of the two most important commands was “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Rather than help us fulfill that command, these shows and clickbait stories make us see people as enemies to be crushed, not neighbors to be loved.

I’m not saying you’ve sinned against God if you share something from Fox News or MSNBC on Facebook. And I am not saying you should completely unplug from current events.  I’m just asking you to be prayerfully self-aware.

But back to my daughter.  She wrote something this morning about this same subject.  After she showed it to me, I urged her to post it somewhere, anywhere.  It’s just so passionate and well-written, and it says what I was trying to say so much better than I could.  But she has ditched social media (can’t argue with that decision!), so she had nowhere to post it.  She gave me permission to post it here.  So if you won’t heed a middle-aged preacher, consider the words of a young woman in her early twenties:

I have taken a break from the news the past two days, and as suspected, I am all the better for it.  It’s interesting because whenever I do this sort of thing–either voluntarily or due to my circumstances, like the Israel trip–I find myself generally apathetic about the news I’m missing out on.  I justify reading the news with teh importance of “staying in the loop,” but once I stop reading, those concerns disappear.  I think it’s important to realize that the news itself is the biggest promoter of its own importance.  They need you to think that every story is breaking, every discovery is a bombshell, every minor irritant is an outrage.  Because if you didn’t think every day was apocalyptic, you wouldn’t read it so obsessively.  And they’d lose out on your precious ad revenue. 

Far from an original thought this may be, but I’m left wondering about the morality of an industry roooted in maintaining chronic rational anxiety.  A population that loves our neighbors doesn’t make headlines.  So what does?  Fear, fury, division, hatred, and furious anticipation for justice delivered.  Our country is monetizing the exploitation of our worst emotions…and we’re just okay with that.  

Why look for solutions when throwing a tantrum over the problem feels so much more satisfying?  Why take action when a like-minded mob to commiserate with is just a tap of the finger away?  Why hope for those in the wrong to see reason if that means losing an enemy you so desperately love to hate?  We scan the headlines each morning like Jonah surveying Nineveh, hoping deep down we’ll get to watch our brother and sisters burn.  We are so unworthy of mercy.  

Okay, so I know she’s my daughter, and every parent thinks his kid is brilliant.  But I think those three little paragraphs–just hastily written in her journal this morning, in longhand–are some of the most profound, challenging thoughts I have read.  The last two sentences especially are going to stick with me.  I just had to share them.


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