Lord, help me to realize that you will be speaking to me through the events of the day, through people, through things, and through all creation.Jacob Astley
Give me ears, eyes and heart to perceive you, however veiled your presence may be.
Give me insight to see through the exterior of things to the interior truth.
Give me your Spirit of discernment.
O Lord, you know how busy I must be this day.
If I forget you, do not forget me.
BEFORE BEGINNING, much of the news on our radio, on our TV, and in our newspapers is about situations we can personally do little about. Sure, we can give money to earthquake survivors in Haiti, but very few of us can travel to the country to help. Since we all have a limited amount of time and energy it makes sense to invest in local stories where we can make a significant difference. This includes getting involved in local government to making dinner for a neighbor who just had surgery. In D.J. Marotta‘s article, News as Spiritual Formation, he calls Christians to “hyper-local” news sources.
Jeffrey Bilbro in Reading the Times agrees. Something as simple as a walk can serve to build community, learn about our neighbors, and act on the news.
For those times when you do engage with traditional media, there are three general guidelines that most experts agree:
- Read your news, don’t watch it
- Don’t get your news from social media
- Practice information hygiene (SIFT method)
Our hope that is after you have read, listened to, and watched all of the below resources that you can approach the news from a distinctly Christian perspective.
READ: News as Spiritual Formation / D.J. Marotta
Most of the news on television involves unactionable items – a murder, a natural disaster, etc. – where there is little that we can do about it – especially if it is on another continent. Anglican priest D.J. Marotta argues that Christians need to be “hyper-local” with our news sources. What this means is being in community with your neighbors, friends, and family where you can respond to information (news) with kindness and love within your sphere of influence.
READ: 6 Questions to Ask When Reading the News / Daniel Darling
The consumption of news from a Christian perspective should be unique and discerning. Pastor Daniel Darling lays out six questions to ask which involve variety, humility, and patience when we engage with or share the news.
LISTEN: Turn Off Cable News and Booing Christians / The Church Politics Podcast
Start at the 6-minute mark. Hosts Justin Giboney and Chris Butler briefly discuss the history and evolution of 24-hour cable news before critiquing cable news that relies on opinions, and false narratives, and is incentivized to get people agitated. The hosts suggest employing information hygiene.
LISTEN: The Gospel and Fake News / The Holy Post
Skye Jethani of The Holy Post and Jesse Eubanks of Love Thy Neighborhood team up to discuss fake news, the role Christians play in spreading it, and how Christians can break out of the fake news cycle.
WATCH: Information hygiene for social media (S.I.F.T. method) / Mike Caulfield
Practical. Easy to learn and easy to implement. The S.I.F.T. method, developed by professor Mike Caulfield, is a must-learn four-step methodology to use when engaging with and sharing media online.
“What we really need is to be shaped by embodied communities that are rooted outside the public sphere and its unhealthy dynamics. Our engagement in the public sphere can only be redemptive to the extent that it is predicated on prior commitments–most fundamentally, commitments to loving God and our neighbors. If these are indeed our primary commitments, we may learn about and respond to current events from a posture characterized by loving attention to the needs of our places and by a profound sense of our participation in God’s ongoing drama.” Jeffrey Bilbro, Reading the Times (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2021) 141.
“There is no single way to look at political ideas that is going to give you everything. What I advise people is to read as broadly as you can. And to make sure you are reading things that are challenging your political viewpoint. Keep track of your news media consumption over a week or two and if you find there aren’t multiple times over the course of those two weeks where you read something that made you think, ‘Gosh, maybe I am wrong on this issue.’ or ‘I’ve never looked at this way.’ Then you are doing yourself a disservice.” Michael Wear “People of Faith: Engage 2020 Webinar” YouTube, uploaded by Issue One. 18 August 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mger_UzDenE.
“If your response to the news fits perfectly with any partisan narrative–whether a nostalgic longing to restore some idyllic time or a woke fury at those on the wrong side of history–it’s unlikely to be keyed to God’s eschatological victory. Christians have the difficult task of learning to read the times “according to the grammar and logic of eternity.” Jeffrey Bilbro, Reading the Times (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2021) 106.
“Choose news sources that hold themselves accountable. Do you use a news source that provides transparent corrections when they’ve gotten something wrong? That’s a good sign. Transparency about what has been edited to reflect new facts or what has been recently updated. Pick one source and engage with it every day. I don’t think every single story, even big crises…needs to be treated as a research project. Instead of saying, ‘I am going to figure this out’ shifting to an approach of ‘I am going to engage with this in a small way every day’ is illuminating…enlightening to what is going on. What you realize over that period of time as you are checking with them every day…it is fascinating to watch what they pick as a top story every day. It is fascinating to watch how that story shifts and changes over time. Instead of picking information and sort of following an algorithm of information it’s actual human beings making decisions about news…I can watch their decision-making over time. I can disagree with it sometimes and I often do, but I am still getting information that.” “How to be a Citizen: Media Literacy and Ballot Education.” Pantsuit Politics, 28 July 2020, https://www.pantsuitpoliticsshow.com/show-archives/2020/7/28/how-to-be-a-citizen-media-literacy-and-ballot-education?rq=how%20to%20be%20a%20citizen.
“There is this idea of information hygiene…practicing good information hygiene involves actually engaging with the news, a lot of people don’t know because they don’t trust it. The second principle is to avoid information echo chambers…get information from different perspectives. The third point of good information hygiene is to verify the information that you are getting through other sources. The last one is to refuse to amplify unvetted information.” Chris Butler “Trust in the Media, Hyperbole and Lies.” The Church Politics Podcast. 27 Jan, 2021. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/trust-in-the-media-hyperbole-and-lies/id1289898626?i=1000506782872.
READ: Reading the Times / Jeffery Bilbo
From newspaper fact checkers to evaluation methods such as S.I.F.T. to diversifying one’s news feeds, there is a tremendous amount of time and energy devoted to debunking lies and conspiracy theories. Despite the trend to provide more quality information to the public, according to a 2022 PPRI poll, 60% of white evangelical Protestants believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump while QAnon conspiracies ravage large swaths of churches in America. While fact-checking methods and diversifying one’s news feed can be helpful, it seems to do little in the way of moving people from yelling at each other to holding a respectful conversation. How did the church get here? Is there a theological way of consuming the news? How can we think and act Christianly to the news?
OUR NEWS RECOMMENDATIONS
The Morning Dispatch and Daily Briefing / Daily e-mail
The Morning Dispatch is a daily newsletter with short blurbs of the top headlines from around the world. Although this newsletter leans conservative, we appreciate that they are not afraid to critique both parties or give credit where credit is due. The Daily Briefing from the Week is a daily e-mail with the top 10 headlines from around the world. The summaries are brief and to the point.
The Pour Over Podcast / Mon., Wed., Fri., podcast
In a world of 24-hour news coverage, it is easy to get lost in the sheer volume of information. Fortunately, the fine people at The Pour Over Podcast are producing three (M, Tu., Fri.) sub-eight-minute podcasts each week that highlight top news while keeping the focus on Christ.
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