I’m the opposite of what some people call a “news junkie;” I don’t follow the news at all. Sometimes I think I should know what’s going on in the world, but it’s not something that interests me so I have a hard time trying to follow breaking stories. Speaking of news, I very much agree with David Murray’s discussion of this in his book, The Happy Christian (which I reviewed here last week). He basically argues that watching too much news hinders joy, optimism, and peace in the Christian life. He first notes that most news (TV, blogs, newspapers, etc.) is negative, shocking, and full of distress and death. We all know the mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Here’s Murray:
“It is neither necessary nor wise for must of us to know all this horrifying information. What good purpose does it serve to hear or read exactly how the murderer went about his vile business, what was heard or seen in the classrooms and offices, how victims tried to defend themselves and others, and more? It is deeply damaging to our short- and long-term mental, emotional, and spiritual health to expose ourselves to such bloodcurdling details.”
Murray writes that this doesn’t mean we must remain totally ignorant and not sympathize with victims. He is simply saying that most of the time the only things we need to know are generals so we can pray intelligently for the needs of those involved in tragedies. “But most of us get to know way, way more than that, darkening our waking hours and disturbing our sleeping hours. I don’t think most of us realize the deep and damaging trauma we are inflicting upon ourselves.” While some people with certain jobs or positions might need to follow the news closely, “most of us don’t need to glue ourselves to the TV and to Internet news. Instead, we should actively shield our families and ourselves from much of it.”
Murray gives a possible objection: “But won’t that mean ignoring problems in the real world?” His answer:
“Quite the reverse, said Shawn Achor, ‘Psychologists have found that people who watch less TV are actually more accurate judges of life’s risks and rewards than those who subject themselves to the tales of crime, tragedy, and death that appear night after night on the ten o’clock news. That’s because these people are less likely to see sensationalized or one-sided sources of information, and to see reality more clearly.”
One more thing Murray says is that he only reads a few headlines and maybe the first paragraph of reports about catastrophes and such: “I operate on a ‘need to know’ basis, and I don’t need to know everything. To me, that’s putting Philippians 4:8 into practice.”
Again, I agree. If you think about all the disturbing news people read/hear (which usually isn’t overly accurate), and if you think about all the death and murders people watch on the movie/TV screen (which are over-the-top), it’s not too tough to see why people live in fear, why they are quite pessimistic about things, and why they struggle to live joyfully knowing that God is sovereign and that Christ is on the throne.
Get this book, The Happy Christian, and read this chapter (especially pages 35-36) if you need biblical encouragement to fight pessimism and hopelessness. Recommended!