I hope all my faithful readers (ok fine, both of them) don’t think I’m trying to get an early start on my vacation, but I came to a sudden realization this week, and decided to write a different kind of blog. I’m not focusing on any one current event, but rather making a commitment to myself and anyone who might read this blog: By God’s grace, I will not allow the media to set the agenda for my blog.
This blog’s concept can easily slide into a media-driven agenda. I want to address current events in our culture- the kinds of things “everyone” in our culture is hearing and reading and thinking about- and wrestle with how we think through these things with the mind of Christ. One cultural reality that this commitment demands us to question, however, is the very criteria for what makes something newsworthy! We need to ask ourselves, “Who sets my mind’s agenda?” Is our perception of reality that which we receive from television shows, news channels, movies, and music? Or are they secondary sources for how we view the world?
The Bible is concerned with our thought life, not just our actions. Often, it seems as though we don’t really have any control over what passes through our minds. You may have experienced this feeling when you sit down for some time of quiet reading, reflection, or prayer. In the moment, we may not have control But that doesn’t mean we can’t have our minds retrained. And part of this retraining, I believe, comes from taking back control of our mind’s agenda and who shows us reality.
The next time you watch any kind of news show, try to take a step back from focusing on the stories themselves, and look at the big picture of what kinds of stories are being told and what impression those selections give of what the world is like. Is it a world where the bad news is killings, corruption, and natural disasters and the good news is the latest cute, feel-good story? Does it spend 15 minutes on celebrity relationships and 5 on an important political issue? Does it seem to be one-sided, trivial, or exaggerated?
Don’t get me wrong, I think we can learn valuable lessons from fallen football coaches, popular musicians, misguided “prophets,” and the like. How we think about these events gives us an invaluable glimpse into what our worldview (view of the world) actually is, not just what we claim it to be. But are we hearing the whole story?
This is not a rant against news media, just a reminder that the stories we read/see/hear on it are an incomplete, narrow, oftentimes trivial, and sometimes just plain bizarre picture of reality. Why? Well, at the risk of over-generalizing, my best explanation is: News shows tend to be far more interested in getting viewers than in showing us reality. What we see on tv or read in the newspaper is as much a reflection on the public’s desires as it is on the network or publisher. They give us what we want to see (deep down) and withhold what we don’t want to see (deep down). And what we want to see doesn’t necessarily have much to do with reality. If we want to transcend merely consuming information, we have to work to see the world more and more the way it is by engaging reality thoughtfully, prayerfully, faithfully, and actively. It’s not that news shows don’t ever address important issues, it’s just that ongoing issues—often the systems behind the stories—get disproportionately neglected in favor of the latest event. Event-based news stories invite us to blame, demonize, or idolize without helping us to see our part in the story.
And even when deeper, more ongoing stories do get airtime, the format of the media tends to undermine the message. No sooner do stories move us to compassion, celebration, or lament than our thoughts are interrupted by a chihuahua trying to sell us tacos or the juicy details about a celebrity affair, and the moment has passed. Like the seed that grows at first, but is choked down by weeds, our response to real news is short-circuited by the vessel in which we receive it.
So yes, I will continue to address current events and what makes news. They are in the cultural air we breathe; the Gospel permeates how we think about every area of life; and we must not become some sect that loses the ability to interact with the “outside world.” But I will also address issues like sex trafficking, educational inequality, the global Church and religious persecution, and other ongoing, but neglected stories about reality. I hope you will bring issues to me that you think warrant attention and be willing to move past information-receiving into engagement in conversation and action.