What does constant bad news do to our souls?
That’s an important question right now. So much of the news is not only bad, but cataclysmically bad. End-of-the-world-as-we-know-it bad. And if you’re a news hawk, like I am, it’s easy to consume a lot of those grim stories each day without processing how they could be impacting our hearts. Which leads me to my topic today: what it looks like to watch the news wisely.
We often talk about the idea of “media discernment” at Plugged In. And if you’re not exactly sure what that phrase means, we recently devoted an entire episode of our The Plugged In Show podcast to unpacking it. And while the principles of media discernment isn’t restricted to any one group, we at Plugged In tend to look at it through a Christian lens. In a nutshell, it means looking at our entertainment choices through a prism of biblical wisdom. Media discernment involves applying Scriptural truth to the images, ideas and interactions we encounter in our popular culture. Sometimes—hopefully, a lot of the time—exercising biblical media discernment means we approach entertainment with caution. We’re willing to say no to problematic stuff that others might embrace uncritically, with open arms.
But the idea of media discernment also applies in another direction: all that news we ingest.
What I’m not talking about here is discerning which news outlet is the most objective and unbiased. That’s a different (and important) conversation. What I am talking about is considering how much we view all that bad news through the lens of the Good News.
If I get up in the morning and immediately surf through half a dozen news sites, but I fail to consistently let God’s Word influence how I see those stories, my point of view is going to be shaped more by the former instead of the latter. The result—the fruit of that news-centric (instead of God-centric) focus, you might say—is a low level of toxicity that breeds sarcasm, cynicism and at times outright anger. That’s why we desperately need biblical truth to shape our perspective on the news. Otherwise, the bad news starts to feel like the only news. Our hearts suffer for it, and—I suspect—so will our relationships with others.
Paul talked about our need to have our souls renewed by truth in Romans 12:1-2. I love the way J.B. Phillips’ New Testament paraphrases that passage:
With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
I especially like the phrase, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within.” That happens when we focus our hearts and minds on the truth found in His word. When we’re remolded and renewed by truth, all of that bad news doesn’t have the last word anymore.
Instead, no matter how overwhelming and scary the headlines and newscasters might seem, we can respond to them as people of faith whose hearts have been shaped by what is true, instead of just what is current.