Saturday, September 02, 2006

Wellsprings of Despair

Pop Quiz: what command did Jesus give more often than any other? It was this: "Fear not." We are told time and time again that fear is not to be our default response for "perfect love casts out fear."

So why are we so afraid? Much of it has to do with television. Don't stop reading, yet! I have TVs, enjoy them, and one is one right now. It is a 20/20 program about the honor killing of a young Sikh girl by her uncle for the crime of not marrying a man 40 years old than her when that man was handpicked by her tribe.

Did you know about honor killing? It might be important to gain a basic understanding of what it is and how it has entered our society via Mideastern and Eastern religions. But how much do you really need to know about it?

How much did you need to know about the wacky weirdo that claimed he loved, then killed, Jon Benet Ramsey? Regardless of whether or not you were interested in him, Captain Highpants was on every newscast, in every newspaper, and discussed in every radio newsbreak for two weeks.

Did you really need to know about Ernesto? It was a rain storm. That's it. Yet, we had weather people standing on beaches decrying the approaching 30mph winds. Well, 15mph but sometimes they gusted up to 30!!!! And rain! It was going to rain, too! Some. I have lived through six hurricanes and I enjoyed them at about a root-canal level, but this was silly.

Here's a flashback for you: when I was kid, evening news ran twenty or twenty five minutes with a five to fifteen minute local news segment attached. That was it. No talk radio, no 24/7 news, no more than one or two newsmagazines floating around if you looked for them (but they were mainly photos -- remember "Look" and "Life"?). You were told some of what was going on around the world, but there wasn't time to mine stories for the worst possible spin, for ways to frighten you, or for ways to get you outraged.

News is out there, but only the bad stuff is interesting enough to broadcast because happy stuff won't keep us watching. American soldiers have distributed nearly a million dollars of clothes and food -- this year alone -- that was sent to them by their hometowns and families. They clothed Iraqis, gave them school supplies, fixed their homes and plumbing, etc. but that doesn't make the news. What makes the news are things like bombs, fear, pessimism, hurt, anger... that is what we have to see and talk about ad nauseum. That is why Cindy Sheehan is on our TVs but the parents of those Marines who died with him are not. They are at peace with their sons' service and Cindy is not. Anger and unrest leads... especially if it bleeds.

When it isn't fear-mongering, TV wants you to be uneasy about your life, your appearance, your weight, health, and financial future. It, along with billboards, Sunday circulars, and radio ads, tell you that people won't like you if your hair isn't right, if your breath isn't great, if your clothes aren't right, and if you don't know what bands are cool and what ones aren't. You are never allowed to rest, never allowed to be at peace. Many ads for pharmaceuticals don't even tell you what the medicine does. They just tell you to "ask your doctor if *** is right for you!" (oh, if only those interminable ads for ED meds were as discreet)

Here is something to think about. If fear, unrest, and discontent is a part of your life, monitor what you watch and what you listen to and make adjustments as necessary. Skip reading the ads in the paper. Mute the commercials on TV. Move away from talk radio and substitute music of your choice, online sermons from edifying speakers, or simple silence. Cancel your newsmagazines if they are bothering you, keeping you at "Alert" about issues here, there and everywhere. (I can see my email now, so let me answer them before they come in: stay informed about current events and vote your faith and conscience... but do so in moderation and take breaks from being so entangled in the affairs of this world).

And when it all gets too much to bear, start a "fast" from media, take time out, and serve someone. Make them cookies or fudge, mow their lawn, help them care for an elderly parent, sit and read for someone... you get the idea.

The media has become a set of wellsprings of despair. Like anything else that can be good for you in small doses and deadly in large ones, monitor your intake carefully and react quickly when you find your joy slipping away and your fear increasing.

"Be still and know that I am God...." "The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him..."


At 9/03/2006 05:04:00 PM , Anonymous TinaMarie said...

I say Amen! I have learned to limit my watching of News to one time a day and then I tend to focus on the sports (REds, Bengals and of course OSU Buckeyes) and weather. I am impressed with our local news because they will air shows showing the great things citizens in our community have done.
This summer I have been re-learning how to replace the lies running around in my mind with the truth and the facts. It does wonders with the fears and insecurities that surface in my life.

At 9/03/2006 06:13:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

I agree. I find that I have much more peaceful attitude when I stay away from Fox News and CNN. I don't really care that I am ignorant about some world events...I can sleep at night.

At 9/05/2006 08:00:00 AM , Anonymous Danny Gill said...

Amen to that, Patrick! I gave up watching news on TV years ago. It just made me outraged. There are disadvantages. I sometimes struggle with not being able to intelligently discuss events with my co-workers, but usually enough of the really important stuff gets through my filters anyway. For a while I took to reading World Magazine, which is a small weekly news magazine published with a Christian perspective. Even that kind of news publication can leave me with a sense of frustration and anger, though. Not because they are doing anything wrong, but because they point out what's wrong with the rest of the media.

I'm not sure where the balance between being well-informed and blocking out the news overload lies, but I'm definitely on the "less-is-more" side.

At 9/05/2006 09:22:00 AM , Blogger k2 said...

my comment is like the rest of them. but, i will say this, i have stopped watching the news in the evenings all together for about 15 - 17 years now, and i haven't missed anything that will harm me. i, too, sometimes miss out on some of the water cooler talk, but i will survive.

the only news i watch is in the mornings before i go to work, and that is the FOX News Channel, sorry donna.

the only exceptions are when weather is coming our way, or election time, or when the terrorists attacked. other than that, i am fine.

i just found that hearing about all the bad stuff just depressed me. it seemed that all they promosted was bad stuff. i get enough of that at work.

great post! keep it up!

At 9/05/2006 10:42:00 AM , Blogger Priscilla said...

Great post! Amen!

At 9/05/2006 10:55:00 PM , Blogger preacherman said...

Excellent post.
The News can be so depressing.
I rather read the good news.
I am so glad that I came across your blog.
I enjoyed reading your posts and look forward to reading more.

I pray that God will bless you as your serve Him.

At 9/06/2006 10:28:00 AM , Blogger Mark said...

Bravo!! Patrick my favorite one of the year so far for fear mongering is "Global Warming". Can you believe the month of July was actually HOT...? Who would think it would be HOT in the summer month of July. Just a heads up the month of November, December and January is approaching and it might actually be cold at some point during those months. Thank you Patrick for common sense in this fast growing non-common sense world.

At 9/06/2006 01:01:00 PM , Anonymous adam said...

Great post.

Atleast for a few minutes I didnt feel the need to buy something. ;)

At 9/07/2006 12:43:00 PM , Anonymous Gem said...

Don't completely stop watching the news, it pays our mortgage, lol! Hubby works for WDIV, in the newsroom. I keep saying I'd like to cancel the cable, but he loves all his news programs. But lately even he admits he could get his news from the internet and not miss anything. The History Channel on the other hand . . .

At 9/07/2006 10:46:00 PM , Blogger Todd Mogilner said...

Patrick your posts always makes me stop and think.

Not only is tv a tool for fear but it shows a world without hope and morals. It has tempted me and brought me to sin more time than I can say

I find that I have over 60 channels and very rarely can find something decent to watch that will uplift you or at least not bring you down.

The other thing that bothers me is it can keep me from the Lord, or from life. How often have I turned on the tv, waste three hours and then say I do not have time to read the bible or pray.

At 9/08/2006 10:09:00 PM , Anonymous Caroline Miller said...

Thank you for this post......

I have already taken this advise. The media and TV tell us... How to dress, how skinny we should be, what not to eat, what you "need" in life.

"Fear Not" its funny how Jesus said that more than anything... It must be the Devils favorite tool...
and he uses things all around us to remind us its there....

At 9/13/2006 04:40:00 PM , Anonymous Jeremy said...

I had a spiritual mentor that gave up TV years before 9/11. He didn't even turn on his TV for 9/11. I think he might have taken it to an extreme but guess what? He was extremely at peace with life and he was the most influential person in my life with regards to spiritual matters.


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