This Week’s Apocalypse

Is it just me, or does it seem like each week the news puts in front of us something breathtakingly urgent, even apocalyptic? I find myself often feeling saturated with issues and events and policies that each seem to carry enormous weight. Yet, upon further reflection, as urgent as these events feel, it seems there’s always a new one springing up, like so many fireworks filling the sky, urgently calling us to look here, then there, grabbing our attention for a moment, then disappearing. The government shut-down; Virginia’s governor and attorney general admitting to having worn blackface; allegations of sexual misconduct by  Virginia’s lieutenant governor; reports of widespread sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention; a stand-off at the Lincoln Memorial between a MAGA-hat-wearing high school student and a Native American drummer; these are just a few from just the last few weeks.

The weekly cycle of angst and hysteria is captured in this tweet by sportscaster Dan McLaughlin: “In any given week, at least one major news controversy is likely to revolve around how much we are supposed to hate a person we’d never heard of the previous week.” How do we live as Christians in such times? How can we be citizens of heaven and Christ’s ambassadors here and now? What do we do with all of this information and all of this angst? Getting the questions right is always a good start. Here are four I’ve found helpful.

How do we know?
Where do we get our information? We live in a tsunami of information, don’t we? We need to remember that not all information is created equal. Reddit, CNN, Facebook, a conversation in the lunch room at work, Fox News, and Twitter may all provide thoughts and perspectives about the same event, but not all are equally reliable or have the same standards for reporting. We do well to ask from time to time, “How do I decide where I get my information?” Further, since no news source is completely objective, it is wise to get our information from several sources with differing perspectives.

Is this issue worthy of our attention and our emotions?
There is a cost to staying informed. It takes time and energy to thoughtfully consider and respond to any current event. We are mortals, finite creatures, and we’ll wear ourselves out if we try to engage whatever rolls out before us in the news. Further, the presiding emotions of the day seem to be anger and fear, with no good and sovereign God in sight (more on that below). Much of what we hear is designed to provoke indignation or anxiety because, let’s face it, these reactions promote more viewing and listening and clicking on websites. Some issues are worth the investment, others are not. If we don’t decide which is which, we’ll end up feeling as wrung out as overcooked pasta.

What impact will our opinion have?
If we track this story, follow these allegations, form an opinion about this policy, what will we do with what we decide? There is something to be said for being informed citizens and much to be said for being engaged in the issues of the day so that we can engage others while representing Christ. But beyond that, will digesting the news of the day actually position us to do something as a result? An awareness of what’s going on around us may lead someone to become a foster parent, or another to study medicine in order to relieve suffering; some may get involved helping victims of sexual abuse, or protecting the rights of Christians in persecuted places. These are wonderful responses.

Here’s one response that I’m trying to apply in my life right now: these people I’m reading or hearing about – have I prayed for them?

How does the news affect our vision of God?
Most of the news inputs we get offer no vision of God whatsoever, so keeping God in view while staying informed requires that we train our minds to remember:

First, that God is in control. I love Psalm 2 where the Lord and his anointed laugh at those who think they’ll dethrone them. Since God is in complete, unassailable control of all things, “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.  Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:10-11) Whatever happened today on Capitol Hill, or anywhere else, don’t worry, God’s got this!

Second, that we all live in a war zone. We’re living in occupied territory, agents of Christ’s kingdom waging war not against flesh and blood (or politicians or news outlets or policies …) but against rulers and authorities and spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-20). For good reason, then, we pray at all times in the Spirit.

Third, that our Lord looked with great compassion on his city (Matthew 23:37), and on the people around him, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). These people whose faces we see on the news, whose Tweets we read, whose opinions infuriate us or frighten us or thrill us, they are flesh and blood, just like we are. They need the same Savior we do, and that Savior loved people enough to let them crucify Him so that they might be saved by Him. May Christ’s heart of compassion be growing in us as well.

Mark Mullery