Monday, April 23, 2007

News and Filtering

“I will set before my eyes
no vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
they will not cling to me. (Ps. 101:3)”

I’ve been thinking about how I “filter” what I feed my mind with. Most of the time it’s not too difficult to determine what should or should not be included. When we think of inappropriate entertainment, a list immediately comes to mind. But what about the things that are not necessarily “vile” but not edifying? Or the things that are shocking yet necessary to know about in order to avoid ignorance? Picking and choosing isn’t as simple as it seems.

The Dilemma

Living the Christian life means no compromise. However, the fact remains that we live in the world, and each live in a culture that we must relate to somehow. As Jesus prayed to his Father, “my prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15)." Yes, we not only live in the world, but have been sent into the world, and have a purpose here. And we need God’s protection from evil, but that includes making conscious decisions on our own part.

Last week a tragedy occurred in my homeland. Although I saw the headlines and heard rumors here and there, I waited a full two days before finding out more details. Why? 1) I didn’t want to face the anguish of it all. 2) I didn’t want to find out through the sensationalism that infiltrates many news stations. 3) I didn’t want to hear yet another version of the same old story and the struggles to understand.

So I finally tuned in, read some stories, looked at the pictures of the victims, heard some shocking survivors’ tales, visited a few forums where people were discussing the how and why, the implications for gun control, etc. I let myself mourn a little bit and I prayed to God.

I can abstain from television, cinema, and unedifying literature, but the news alone gives me nightmares. I don’t want to turn my back on the plight of African orphans or ignore important presidential elections in France, but the tension in these real-life events is overwhelming. And running across the stories about gang violence, celebrity alcoholism, and political scandals do not serve a purpose in my daily life. I find it difficult to break away from everyday life to meditate on events that are happening across the world in complete different circumstances from my own.

Americans have a reputation for being ignorant, and I don’t claim to be an exception. There are plenty of gaps in my education about the world. However, I know something about the part of the world that I’ve been called to. Yes, I would like to expand my worldview, but there still have to be guidelines. If I focus on major events, I will still be ignoring some small people group somewhere. And the Bible says that God cares about one sparrow, or one lost sheep. Shouldn’t we follow His example?

Is it necessary to spend our energy learning about far-off wars, obtaining knowledge that will only be used to demonstrate how “smart” we are? Or is it better to spend that time perfecting knowledge of that which is relevant to our own life’s calling?

If citizens of the other countries of the world are “better-educated,” I would like to know how they receive this information without being overwhelmed by it all.

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