News, weather, traffic? Who cares?

September 23, 2011

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:

Any news is bad news.

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?

6 Responses to “News, weather, traffic? Who cares?”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    I agree most news we are told of by the morning paper is bad news, and quite frequently trivial as well. However, I think it might be a mistake to simply abondon reading, as opposed to being selective. Sometimes we can take action that might positively affect somebody as a result. I sometimes submit letters to the editor (there’s a surprise!) on issues I find important, hoping against hope that maybe somebody will “see the light” on a point or two. In fact, I just finished sending such a letter off to our local paper (Fort Worth Star Telegram) about two articles in this morning’s paper, though I have no idea if they will run it. They have run some of mine. You mentioned the “Pillar of physics might be wrong” headline in your post, and since, interestingly enough, that was one subject of my letter, I thought I’d just pass on what I said in my letter:

    Lightning does strike twice!

    Einstein’s theory of relativity has been brought to its knees! Why? A neutrino, travelling from Geneva to Italy, was clocked at 60 nanoseconds (60 billionths of a second) faster than a photon. That’s .000025 times faster. I wonder what the “margin of error” for the measuring device was? It seems some scientists like to startle us, or make a name for themselves.

    Closer to home, Dakota Ary was suspended from Western Hills High School (now revoked) for saying, in a religious discussion, that he thought homosexuality was wrong. I guess these days freedom of speech is only permitted when it is “politically correct.”

    Anyway, I don’t think we should “throw the baby out with the bath water” when it comes to the morning paper; though, I concur, finding that baby is sometimes daunting.

    • brentwhite Says:

      I haven’t abandoned it entirely. Like I said, I scan the headlines. But if it’s important enough—like a neutrino traveling faster than the speed of light, which to me is very interesting—I would probably read or hear about it somewhere else.

      The largest concern for me is that news distorts reality and makes the world seem much bleaker than it is. And God, of course, is nowhere to be found. It fosters pessimism. And of course it represents itself as something very “realistic,” which it isn’t.

      • brentwhite Says:

        Speaking of news, is SMU going to wind up in the Big 12? Is the Big 12 going to survive? What are they saying about it in Dallas? (That’s the kind of news that interests me!)

  2. Tom Harkins Says:

    Brent, all I know for sure is Texas A&M will be in the SEC. Other than that, everything is still up in the air. Yes, I probably spend as much time in the sports pages as elsewhere!

    On a more serious note, my daughter (Brianna, age 16) announced to me Saturday night that she has become a Deist. She said that is someone who believes God wound up the clock, but that’s it (I imagine she got that out of a history book). I tried to talk to her about it, but she left the room and it’s been pretty strained since. When I was at Furman as a freshman, I abandoned the faith to become a putative atheist, which I basically remained for about ten years. Now I know something of what my parents felt like (they were SBC missionaries in South Korea) when I finally told them that. Anyway, I would greatly appreciate your prayer support about this. Thanks.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Gladly, Tom. I’m sorry you’re going through that! Not that this helps much, but it does sound like an age-appropriate, rebellious thing that a 16-year-old might say (and not necessarily mean) in order to hurt her parents. Or maybe she’s upset about something that has nothing to do with her faith and this is how she’s expressing that anger. Be patient with her.

      Does she still go to church? You might tell her something like this: you’ll agree not to fight with her about it so long as she continues to go to church.

      Give me an update sometime. It will help me know how to pray.

  3. Tom Harkins Says:

    Brent, I appreciate your prayers and you may well be right as to your interpretations. Yes, I am taking her to church and including her in our “irregular” family Bible readings. I will let you know if I see some significant changes.


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