The News Won’t Set You Free, Even If It’s from a ‘Christian’ Network

These days, Christians may be tempted to join the 24/7 news cycle to push back against the ignorance, distortion, and bias they see emptied into the public square.

That’s what the Christian Broadcasting Network recently opted to do with its new CBN News Channel.

I understand the desire to offer even fuller coverage, but I can’t help thinking our impulse to join reveals an essential worldliness, marching to the beat of secular headlines and falling in with the fears of a fallen realm.

It means that we have not recognized that the larger enemy is precisely that 24/7 news cycle.

Christianity does not exist in some Absolute Present, as CNN and Fox News and Twitter do. Its home is in eternity. We don’t live within the world’s shifting judgments but in truths that are under no ultimate threat. Of course, we recognize that much of humanity does not acknowledge or even recognize these truths, and we do have a responsibility there.

Twenty years ago, in How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society, I tried to show how the sheer dailiness of the news product distorted everything: politics, science, religion, elections, values, worldviews, culture, and social relations. This dailiness was more damaging than any bias, since it went unrecognized, seeming only natural.

Now, the news cycle has grown even more ever-present, with constant updates pinging us around the clock on our phones, computers, watches, and other devices. But my concerns are still the same: We cannot counter the distortion of dailiness we see in the news by the same means of constant coverage that produced them in the first place.

(Remember, the news comes to us daily, hourly, minute by minute, only because the industry’s profits depend on us believing in the constant news cycle. We regularly see news producers creating commotion to have enough “news” to fill a broadcast.)

Our faith is indeed involved in the realm of public opinion, the discussion used to put the news into its larger context. But the pace of commercial news production often ignores that context. Seeing the big picture usually makes today’s contribution seem small, which defeats the industry’s hype.

Christians have a stake in Wisdom, seeing things in the widest perspective. Constantly reacting to the latest explosion in the hourly news will not accomplish this.

Such reactions will seek to prove themselves, score points, and invite further response. Wisdom aims for different ends. Showing things in a wider context—involving religion, history, ethics, social philosophy—is the loving way to free our audience from their anger and despair.

The very earliest attempt at a Christian periodical, in England at least, was a chapbook-style “newsbook” published in 1643. That was in the midst of what must have seemed like an apocalyptic struggle—the English Civil War between Puritans and their religious opponents. The paper was called New Christian Uses, Upon the Weekly True Passages and Proceedings, and it offered to show how events appeared to the eye of faith, that is, from God’s own perspective.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, C. John Sommerville