I said in my previous post that I’m turning off the news again. I’m completely serious. I haven’t followed it closely in several years—except for sports news. (College football is a passion of mine.) I scan the headlines, of course, but that’s mostly for sermon research purposes.
The 21- and 31-year-old version of me would be shocked at this development. For 14 years I subscribed to an actual paper paper (the New York Times), and I was even an editor for my college newspaper. It used to be incredibly important to keep up with current events both near and far.
Years ago, Richard Foster, in one of his books on spiritual formation, described an acquaintance who was a complete news junkie. He felt compelled to read multiple papers every day (this was before the explosion of the internet). He realized that it was an addiction—a kind of idolatry. Needless to say, he didn’t wake up in the morning with that same desire to pray, for instance. So he quit. Cold turkey. Stopped reading the paper entirely.
And he didn’t die.
At the time, as a budding news junkie myself, I’ll admit that this rejection of news seemed shockingly unnecessary. I now see the wisdom in it.
Let’s say I wanted to read the hometown paper (besides the sports section). Here’s an actual snapshot of the headlines:
I had to look up a couple of items—a defunct NASA satellite may or may not hit the U.S., but it will land somewhere and maybe kill some people. It’s bad news. The Georgia country club being sold is slightly negative. It’s being sold on the cheap because of our terrible economy, you see. The physics article is surprising, but neutral in tone.
My point is that this is overwhelmingly bad news. I don’t think today is an unusual news day, either.
How is reading this news or watching TV news—with its “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality—good for us? How does it not foster an unhealthy and un-Christian kind of pessimism? How much of this news will matter next week, not to mention next year?
We know that good news is out there. We know that God is at work in this world, in spite of the evil all around. We know that God’s kingdom is growing in ways we can’t even see or imagine. (Read my sermon last week!)
I know what my critics might say: we watch and read the news in order to be better informed. Given the way the news distorts reality, how are we not being misinformed?