I was visiting with my parents last week and was exposed to 24/7 news for the first time. I don’t have astro (pay tv) at my place. My parents had just subscribed. Anyway I got my first chance to watch 24/7 news. I surfed between CNN, BBC and CNBC with periodic visits to ESPN and the local news stations. I felt disorientated after a short while. I realized my brain was on hold. All mental energies were directed to imbibing the constant flow of data. I didn’t have the time or the energy to process what I was seeing.
After awhile I got bored and went searching for the entertainment channels. Which didn’t feel quite right, not with the tragedies unfolding around the world. I should have tried to understand. I should have cared. I should have prayed. I should have been thinking as to appropriate responses. Instead I was bored.
I realize I am saying nothing new. Many others have made the same observations long before this. (Like I said this was my first time with the 24/7 news industry.) In his book Jihad vs. McWorld, Benjamin R. Barber writes that “without a concerted pedagogical effort, television is unlikely to enhance learning:it is better at annihilating than at nurturing the critical faculties.”
I have found myself turning more to newspapers and newsweeklies to better understand what is happening. Ironically, with news now on tap 24/7 from the internet and from television, I appreciate the print media more, especially the editorials.
I also find that I understand the world better through good conversations with thinking, feeling people both Christian and non-christian. And there is no escaping carving out times of solitude for meditation and reflection.
Indeed there is much happening and the speed of change is frightening. But we should get rid of any illusion that if we are plugged in to the news all the time, we can be on top of every major event that is happening around the globe. That is just not possible.
A surfeit of information only leads to another illusion, that we have done our Christian duty by becoming well informed Christians. A surfeit of information only leads to boredom and passivity.
I am sure I am quoting Paul a little out of context but he did say that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up” (1Corinthians 8:1 NRSV ). I don’t need more knowledge. I have more data than I could possibly use. What I need, and indeed what the world needs, is true biblical wisdom.My first encounter with 24/7 news reminded me how badly I needed my mind and feelings to be shaped by Christ.
I realized that the basic spiritual disciplines were no longer luxuries, not that they ever were. A number of basic spiritual disciplines come to mind:
*Scripture study, allowing the Word to shape my mind and heart. *Prayer, where I listen as much as I talk to God. *Journalling, which forces me to slow down enough to remember what the Lord tells me, and allows me to get in touch with my own soul. *Community, where I meet up regularly with other believers for accountability and mutual encouragement. *Mentoring, where I meet up periodically with those older and wiser, to get fresh perspectives on life and service. *Corporate worship, where sermons, prayers, sacrament, and hymns allow me to be confronted afresh with the reality and awesomeness of God. *Retreats, where I unplug from the media, take time to rest, and to reorientate my life to God and His purposes.
Those who know me know that I am an activist by nature. Martha,not Mary,is my patron saint. God had His ways of slowing me down. So much has happened in my life the last ten years that I was truly lost. I had to stop and ask for instructions. I had no choice.
In my younger days I could not have imagined that I would be passionately advocating spiritual disciplines! But here I am trying to encourage my brothers and sisters to adopt the above spiritual disciplines if they have not already done so. I have been doing this for some time now. But my maiden exposure to 24/7 news only lent fresh urgency to my little campaign.
I am sure every generation thinks that they are unique. Nevertheless I feel that Paul’s admonishment in Romans 12:1-2 applies especially to the CNN age. Our age.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”