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Is It Time to Turn Off the News?

Is It Time to Turn Off the News?

One of my favorite morning rituals is sitting down with breakfast and opening up the newspaper. I understand there aren’t many in my generation that still read the news in print, but for me it’s a comforting ritual. Or, at least, it used to be. 

For years, I’ve had a rocky relationship with the news. I love to know what’s going on in the world, but I can’t help but notice that the news sources I read all present the story from a definite slant. More and more over the last couple years, I’ve felt like I’m doing battle with the newspaper every morning. Each day, the media machine is telling me who I should vote for, what to buy, what new disease to fear, and who my country should kill.

The further I go in my journey of discipleship to Jesus, the more I realize that I am in a battle – an ideological or spiritual warfare – with the media I consume. Especially at this time in American politics, as we head into what may be the most contentious and vitriolic election in a generation, I’m wondering to what extent I should be engaging with the news at all.

Here’s one decision I’ve come to for myself: I’m not going to spend any more time consuming media that makes me feel powerless, furious, or inadequate. For me, that has meant making the choice to avoid the paper’s A section and go straight for local news. I’m not saying there isn’t propaganda and distortion on the local level; on the contrary, local DC politics is a bit of a mess! Yet it’s a mess that I have a real stake in. I have a voice, however small, in the life of my city. I can take concrete action to drive tangible change.

The choice to shift my gaze locally has been a powerful one for me. I’m still frequently discouraged by the news I read, but I rarely experience the radical alienation that has become so normal when I focus on national and international affairs. I can choose to be an actor rather than a spectator. Reading my local news serves as a preparation for engagement, rather than a temptation to despair.

I think temptation is the right word. Especially now that we are entering into the thick of the American presidential campaign season, I am increasingly convinced that the mainstream media narratives are toxic – damaging to body, mind, and spirit. I’m through ingesting toxins and calling it “entertainment”. I refuse to allow myself to be distracted from the joy and challenge of real life, in favor of the three-ring circus that American politics has become.

It’s time to take control of the media I consume. If that means throwing away the A section of the newspaper without reading it, I will. If it means shutting off social media until November 9th, then I’ll learn to live without it. Because I can’t let the seed of life get choked out by the weeds. God put me on this earth for a purpose, and it wasn’t for live-tweeting the Republican debates. 

How about you? What’s your relationship like with the news these days? Is there a healthy balance you’re able to strike? What does simplicity and faithfulness look like when it comes to what we put into our minds?

Related Posts:

Why Is Our Christian President So Violent?

What If This Is All There Is?

  • broschultz

    Fasting from reading or watching the news is probably more beneficial to our souls in this day and age than fasting from food.

  • Lesley Laing

    I have found myself “addicted” to reading electronic media (I live abroad, so don’t usually have access to the print media), but have found that limiting time and exposure can help manage time while still allowing me to keep abreast of the range of issues that call to me. So I read email Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, FaceBook Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – fasting from all media for the Sabbath. Then a small part of my “ministry” is advocating to my FaceBook circles that we “see what Love can do” around the issues; and that seems to help at least a few of my younger friends stay positive (I know it is a struggle from my decades in work life in Canada and the western US).

    By the way, in my 20s I learned I am not called to do “great” things, but to be faithful to the calls/leadings I do discern. Later, I learned I am not called to “all” issues, that reach out to me, but only to those with which I have a “connection.” God works through other faithful people who have connections to the other issues; I can trust that, leave those issues to them and support them in friendship, Meeting and prayer. I believe that is one aspect of Thomas Kelly’s essay about simplicity and living from the divine Center. So may not work for others – each has to experiment until they find their own balance and just where they are called – which can change with changing conditions and the expertise one develops.

    It all comes down to LISTENING – preserving the time in life to do that and respond to what one hears…

    Blessings, Friend. I am glad that at least for now you seem to have a call to this blog – your writing often nourishes and challenges me, especially as I catch glimpses of how you and others seed to be faithful in this complicated world.