Summary: The first message in the Good News Series
We are constantly inundated with bad news. And just in case you’re not certain that’s true, let me go over just a few headlines from the past week…and these are just a few.
Ebola, terror attack in Paris, four men shot to death in San Francisco, 170 vehicle pile-up on a major highway, murder/suicide at a school in Jacksonville, latest Boko Haram kills in Nigeria too many to count, father tosses daughter from bridge
And remember, this is just a sample. Some of this news was in your email inbox...or popping up on your smartphone…perfect with your morning coffee. Some of this was on the radio during your commute. Some of this stared you in the face from the covers of magazines at the newsstand. Some you heard over supper while CNN or Fox news was playing on the TV.
Bad news. Seems like all major news is bad news, doesn’t it? The old saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It seems to be true. And we’re fascinated with bad news…that’s why it’s featured. The news outlets are money-making ventures, and they can only feature what sells. And the tragic truth is that bad news sells. Human beings seem to have an unhealthy fascination with the macabre.
Add to this fascination the fact that any serious examination of any of these events is simply not possible in the length of time the media devotes to these stories. Pew Research says that the median length of a local TV news story & video is 41 seconds. That’s right…41 seconds. The median length of a network TV news package is 2 minutes 23 seconds. Yes…the entire package…all the news worth knowing on the subject…graphics, videos, and talking heads…all in 2 minutes 23 seconds. And the median length of the most popular news clips on Youtube is…get this…sixty seconds.
It’s not enough information to allow you to form an educated opinion on the subject. It’s not enough information for you to decide on what action, if any, you should take. It’s just enough information to grab your attention…just enough to be unhealthy. Yes…it’s unhealthy…because it’s just enough information to cause increased stress & anxiety, but not enough for you to know what to do with the increased stress & anxiety. In fact, research demonstrates that people exposed to repeated media reports of traumatic events often experience more acute stress symptoms than those exposed to the actual events.
Little, if any, of the “news” you were exposed to last week was actually helpful to you. I’d hazard a guess that all it accomplished was to add to the stress & anxiety produced by the newsreel of your own life. You know, the one in which the headlines declare, “Job on the Line”. Or, “Still Jobless”. You know, when the news anchor in your head solemnly intones, “Marriage In Trouble” & “Kids Are a Mess”. Or, when the merry band of incredibly stylish and beautiful talking heads sit around bandying glib soundbytes about your car needing unaffordable repairs, or you not being able to pay the bills, or afford insurance.
Each of us has enough of our own bad news to never need to hear the bad news of the world ever again.
Then some people go to church and hear about how horrible gay marriage is, and how we need to stand against the homosexual lobby, and how Islam is the religion of the antichrist, and how government is out to destroy the liberty of Christians, and how the seals in the book of Revelation are being opened, and how we’re all going to be forced to be microchipped…and that’s the mark of the beast…and how everything is generally going to hell in a handbasket…the family, morals, society, the country, western civilization, and the barbarians are at the gates.
It’s not that all this bad news is untrue…it’s just that’s it’s everywhere. It may all be factually true indeed…it’s just that it’s so pervasive. There’s no escaping it. What’s worse, there seems to be no avoiding the gloom that it brings to your mind & spirit. There seems to be no way to free yourself from the undercurrent of hopelessness and frustration that it generates.
Maybe if you had a little breathing space, a bit of respite from time to time, it would be better. But you don’t. Your life is exhausting. Between job, spouse, kids, school, activities, & appointments, you simply don’t have any time to recoup. So, the stress & anxiety of bad news is coupled to your own physical & emotional exhaustion…and the effect is compounded.
Maybe if you were just a little stronger spiritually…maybe if your Christian walk was a little more dynamic and life-giving…but it’s not. Prayer? What’s that? You’re so spent you can barely say grace over meals. You have a hard time finding time to speed read a few verses of Psalms, let alone engage in personal study of the Bible. And you’re aware of your spiritual inadequacy. You’re aware of it in the way your mind works, your real values, your deepest emotions…and most intensely, in your failings.