Are you keeping up with the news?
I was on the phone with one of my girlfriends, having a marathon chat for three hours and at some point between covid vaccines and weight watchers tips my friend asked, “So, are you keeping up with the news again?” Now for those of you who caught the blog at the beginning of Lent, you may recall that my sacrifice this year was to give up the news. I was absolutely tapped out and couldn’t take one more disaster. So instead of torturing myself any longer, I turned off my notifications and unsubscribed from my favorite morning briefing emails. I passed over anything closely resembling heated political battles on social media and hung out with Jesus, which was the point of this particular sacrifice to start with. Do you know that just from turning off the ping I went from picking up my phone 144 times a day to 64? Unbelievable. ( I would have nailed Pavlov’s experiment if I was a dog! Good Lord)
But now Lent is over and I’m free to go back to the news. I can jump back into the fray and stare at my screen, shaking my head, wondering how to fix the world. Or I can just ignore it all and keep my sanity. The crossroad is begging, demanding that I pick a direction and move along. But I’m unsure.
So how did I answer the question my girlfriend asked?
“I’m keeping up with shootings and covid news but that’s about it.”
How sobering is that?
I’m not going to lie and say that being ignorant was anything but bliss for my empathetic self. It was a sheer joy not to wake up and get riled by a headline. I loved not having my emotions stirred to fever pitch levels. It was great for my migraines and my sleep too. But there is something important in the knowing. Something essential.
The more time I spend with God in prayer, and the more time I read the Gospels, I am all the more convicted in finding pathways to ally with people who need the community to break down systems built on money, fear, and power in order to create ones build on humanity, dignity, and grace. Whether it is reading about the affordable housing bill and testifying in support of its value, or listening to a story about a new rare side effect of covid so I can pass along the knowledge to my friends, the knowledge is what drives the walk in love with Christ. The knowing is the precise place where the facts and Jesus meet, directing me to act in ways that promote the takedown of unjust systems or to stand on the side of science.
If you think about it, Jesus didn’t grab the disciples, ask them to follow Him, and then hide them from the reality of the world they lived in. Jesus didn’t shield them from the mess. He walked them right into it so they could see, hear, and smell it. Think about how they witnessed Jesus healing others, preaching, and teaching; how their eyes were opened and preconceived notions dispelled. Can you imagine the powerful reality that hit the disciples in those moments?
Although it’s not quite the same, I think that is what Jesus tries to do with me when I read or watch the news. He’s showing me the suffering and guiding me toward action. He’s asking me to see the mess and find ways to create change in my way, in my corner of the world, with Him as my guide. With this perspective in play, I have concluded that the news was taxing me only in part because of the profound sorrow I felt. The other major piece of the problem rests in what I chose to engage with when reading and watching. Being “in the know” with what the crowd was paying attention to was the biggest problem for me. That’s where the nations fighting and tribal thinking were born and bred. That’s the stuff that is toxic to my soul.
Finding my Own Path
So back at the crossroads of do I or don’t I turn on my subscriptions again to read about more than shootings and covid, I think the answer is to cut straight up the middle and create my own path. I don’t need to engage with the sensationalized, clickbaity, drama-filled nonsense that prompts people to unfriend their own sister on Facebook. I need to know about real issues and ways to support real solutions. I need to step into the spaces that Jesus asked those original 12 to sink into and act accordingly. I hope you will join me.
I hope you will share some of those places that give you what you are looking for.
Sounds like you are in a good place, Jen. I especially appreciate your focus on filtering your news intake through considering how you can respond compassionately with an eye towards the common good. May God continue to guide you and may your heart be centered in God’s heart.