Christians and TV News

Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative  In the past five years, I probably have watched a total of three hours of TV news (and thirty minutes of that was at an airport waiting for a flight to depart).  We don’t have cable or dish, and I never watch network TV news.  I have better things to do that watch the news, and I avoid it because it seems to me the rhetoric is usually over the top and the logic is full of holes.  So Carl Trueman’s commentary on this caught my eye.  In chapter three of Republocrat he tackles the claim that Fox News is unbiased reporting.  Here’s part of his summary of that chapter – critical and constructive.

“…All news channels have their biases and their agendas, all are shaped by those who pull the financial strings, and Fox [owned by Rupert Murdoch] is no exception.  So no one should ever spout the ‘Fox is the unbiased news channel’ nonsense, especially Christians, who, with their understanding of the malignant and complex impact of sin on human psychology, should understand the need for a certain skepticism regarding all such media  outlets.”

“Fox is not unbiased, never has been unbiased, and frankly never can be unbiased, any more than any other outlet.  Yes, it is true that liberal pundit Keith Olbermann is about as nuanced and sophisticated in his political analysis as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly; so, from the perspective of serious political discussion, I say a plague on all their houses.”

“When it comes to listening to the news, Christians should be eclectic in their approach and not depend merely on those pundits who simply confirm their view of the world while self-evidently using terminology, logic, and standard rules of evidence and argumentation in sloppy, tendentious, and sometimes frankly dishonest ways, such as Mr. Beck and his ‘welfare means totalitarianism’ claims.  There is a sense in which we are dependent for our view of the wider world on those media that give us access to that world, so surely it is incumbent on us to make sure that we expose ourselves to a variety of viewpoints on the great issues of the day.”

“…It is incumbent on us not to surround ourselves with things that confirm our prejudices but to seek to listen to a variety of viewpoints.  The listening is not an end in itself, as so many postmodern conversationalists would have it; the purpose is to become more informed and to have better-grounded and better-argued opinions.  But that can happen only when watching the news becomes more than just having our gut convictions continually confirmed.”

Carl Trueman, Republocrat (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2010).

rev shane lems

3 thoughts on “Christians and TV News”

  1. I have often asked myself, Why do we watch or read the news? I admit that I get our local newspaper, World Magazine, the Atlantic, the Economist, and once a week read USA Today. Most of the time we cannot do much about what we find out; the headlines (or national talking heads) to justify their appeal to our attention must promote the idea that today’s news is IMPORTANT. But if today’s news is important, and yesterday’s news was equally important, and tomorrow’s news, etc., etc. then we are being asked to worry, fret and be anxious about 365 things each year. Is it possible, is it healthy, to really be concerned about all these things? I doubt it. Or alternatively, we are expected to follow for the umpteenth time the same story, simply told with more adjectives and greater detail. All this news, particularly in its visual form, creates a world in which we are invited to live, but it is hardly the real world. An example is the school massacre in Connecticut. Our local school officials are being asked at public forums about safety measures. My response would be: what rational reason do we have to think that our schools are not safe? Well, look at what happened in Connecticut–this is the world we are being invited to perceive; this highly unusual and perhaps unavoidable insane deed has assumed massive proportions because it is broadcast 100’s of times per day–yet it only happened once; in the real world of our schools, things are pretty safe; sad though the event is, it does not reflect much increase in our children’s actual jeopardy.
    Perhaps we inform ourselves so we will have something to talk about; after all, the weather is fine, and always changing, of course, but beyond that not much; in the old days, I suppose the local gossip was the main source of news, and to this day, our local gossip really does engage me more than Korea or Iran or the European Union or global warming–because I actually know these local people.
    I am convinced more and more that a little news, taken, as Trueman says, from more than one ideological source, but supplemented by reliable reports (such as from missionaries, whom we know and who are on site) and much Bible reading give us a better perspective on what our duty is than being “well-informed”.


    1. Good points, Monty. Appreciate the commentary. I’ve thought about some of those same things; so much news can seriously make people afraid, anxious, cynical, etc. And perhaps world news is hurting our relationship with our next door neighbors. Good stuff to think about.

      Have you ever read “How to watch TV News” by N. Postman? That book is fascinating and will make you think even more about this topic!

      Again, thanks for the comments.


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