Thursday, August 22, 2013
Prone to despair. . .
The George Zimmerman marathon trial coverage was over the top. The incessant need to make news and then to make this news urgent has taken its toll. The Zimmerman trial is case in point. It was tailor made for the media (liberal and conservative) and created a story where, at least locally, there was none. The paid talking heads and those who feed on exposure (Al Sharpton among them) decided this was a story and the media created one. When that story ended, the response and reaction to the verdict became the next created story.
Chesterton lived long before this era of routinely manufactured news but he saw it coming. Common sense, always in short supply but now seemingly absent from the media and news, has turned us all into victims, self-inflicted because we watch it all and hang on every word. The end result is often despair. Chesterton says that journalism consists of saying “Lord Jones is Dead” to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive. Even though we did not know Lord Jones lived, we have become sad at his death. Our grief is perhaps real enough to us but the end result is that we lack empathy for the dead whom we do know. The Trayvon Martins of this world have sapped all our emotional energy and we are left cold and empty for the lives, sufferings, and deaths of those near to us. Celebrities (Randy Travis) or wanna be celebrities (Cory Montieth) become the focus of our feelings while we are callous to the suffering and death that happen routinely (as city's reaction to the drug killings so rampant in Chicago).
...the news industry is that it “must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions”. The newspapers, says Chesterton, cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not dissolved, all the murders that are not committed. And so they do not give a normal picture of life at all. “They can only represent what is unusual.”
Recently a person to whom I was conversing asked me if I were troubled by the news. This person was having trouble sleeping at night for all the terrible news headlines dancing in the mind, fed by the words and images of the media. I generally do not have trouble sleeping. Maybe I am a terrible person but I am not tormented by the news. Despair is one of the fruits of a diet too rich in the news and media; indifference is the other. Both are bad.
Perhaps the most dangerous thing about our preoccupation with news, bad news, horrifying news, is that we have lost all sense of God's providence, of His presence amid disaster and death, and therefore of the hope that is ours in Christ. Christians need to take care lest their addiction to the 24 hour news cycle saps their faith of the joy that is inherent in Christ and steals their confidence in the providential care of God and power of His sufficient grace to enable us to stand, to endure, and to persevere.
So I recommend that you be careful what you listen to... be careful what you watch... not because of the agenda of the largely liberal and progressive folks who control most of the news outlets but because our addiction to news, nearly all bad news, is like a cancer upon the soul of the Christian. The effects of its progress are nearly always a loss of joy, confidence, courage, and peace. These are already in short supply in this mortal life. Let us be careful for whom and for what we surrender them.
For me, even my satellite radio on the car is not exclusively tuned to Fox News. Often, more often than not, after a few moments I end up switching to classical music or to the treasure of sacred music on my I-Pod. I find that when the poisonous tongue of the news threatens, nothing like Bach or Beethoven or Mendelssohn can restore a little calm and salutary effect to balance it all off. I highly recommend it.