The news is incredibly important to many of us. The top rating TV show in Perth, consistently, is the nightly news report. Many of the most visited websites are news sites of different types. And newspaper circulation, in WA at least, is at least steady if not increasing. We are interested in the world around us.
Unlike in previous generations, when something of significance happens in the world we know about it quickly. Even a generation or two ago it would have been quite possible to be ignorant of what was happening elsewhere in your own country, let alone what was happening in far-flung parts of the world.
Personally, I check news websites quite often, and read newspapers a couple of times a week. But as I do this, I have started to notice a few things I thought it would be helpful to put in a blog article as I get my thoughts straight.
- So much of the news is really entertainment, not really education. So often the most significant news stories around the world get little attention, while the latest shocking music video, or celebrity pairing, or ‘wardrobe malfunction’ get a lot of press. I suppose the news appeals to our desires that way: we want to satisfy our envy, or our curiosity, or our lust, and the news organizations are simply providing ways for us to do this.
- The philosopher Alain de Botton has a theory that the news fills a void that used to be filled by religion for most people. (Look at his most interesting new book “The news: a user’s manual” where he explores this.) In other words, the news gives us an understanding of what the world is like, and where we fit into it. We can compare our situation with others and get a sense of what the world is really like; often in Australia this can make us feel superior, or fearful, or angry. The problem with this is that our perception of the world is strongly coloured by the organisation which is delivering the news to us; they choose what to report, and how to report it. For example, if you only ever watched the news but never walked through the city and Northbridge you might think it is a consistently violent place where people get beaten up randomly all the time. The reality, that we live in one of the safest cities in the world and most violence happens in the early hours of the morning between very drunk people, is far from the news perspective. Apparently fear sells newspapers and gets people watching TV.
- If the news has the potential to give us a worldview and help us understand the world we live in, we need to see the danger in that for Christians. We get so much input from news organisations and so little from the Bible and the church that it is not surprising that we have a worldview that is less than Biblical. We see opinion polls that most people agree with gay marriage and editorials supporting it, and protests supporting it getting much attention, and we wonder if Christians have it right. We see massive coverage of legal challenges to school chaplaincy and despair at the impact of the gospel in the world. We need to remember that news organisations have an agenda, and in Australia often that is anti-Christian in nature; news is subjective, not objective.
So what should we do about this? All move to an island away from an internet connection, away from newspapers? No, we cannot remove ourselves from the world! We need to think of the news clearly through the lens of a Biblical worldview, thinking and not just absorbing what is given to us. Here are a few suggestions:
(a) When we see reports of horrific crimes, or abject poverty, or massive injustice, it is right to respond with anger and horror. These things are horrific. But that is not enough of a response. It confirms what Christians know of the world, that it is broken to the core, and that people are far more sinful than we often think. We should not walk away feeling superior to the criminal being reported about, but know that this so easily could be us. And then we should pray for Jesus to return to bring justice to the mess that is the world around us.
(b) When we see the Forbes rich list released, or the massive homes of the rich and famous, we are being provoked to envy. But we should remember that even having all of those things will not make us happy or content, for contentment is only found in a relationship with God.
(c) When we see reports aimed at increasing our fear, we should see them for what they are. There are bound to be news reports about stock market fears, serial killers, national debt, and unemployment. Are these genuinely things to be afraid of? Of course! But by worrying, you cannot add an hour to your life. And why should you be afraid of anyone or anything when you trust in the One who matters? Even if the worst happens in a physical sense, we are secure in the love of God if we trust in Jesus (read Rom 8 if you need be reminded of this!).
The news has its place. Just make sure it doesn’t determine what place your thinking is at; instead read the news through the lens of one who has been redeemed by Jesus.