Though a devastating flood in Pakistan has, as of the time of my writing, taken nearly 300 lives, it got barely a few lines of coverage in today’s news outlets. A thwarted attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul got a few more lines so far, but I had to search to find news of a bus and train collision in Argentina. Instead, most of what has been deemed newsworthy for American media outlets so far today is financial in nature. Bank of America has announced it will eliminate 30,000 jobs over the next few years. Stocks continue to decline, and the loss of U.S. jobs prompts discussion over regulation review. On the heels of reports come interviews with banking experts and financial pundits. If you are one to agonize over uncertainty or fret over your finances, current news reporting would be great exposure therapy, that psychological technique of helping the fearful overcome their fears by exposure.
In my broadcast writing class in college we learned the term “news judgment,” that process by which editors determine the stories that will get the most air time or page real estate in the daily paper. News judgment seems an attempt to match current events with what media moguls think Americans most want to hear (ie, match which news will most prompt Americans to look or click or resist changing channels). I can’t help but notice a theme. We must seem an incredibly fearful lot. We must seem mostly concerned with our own financial futures. We must seem to care very little about the accidents and natural disasters that claimed the lives of so many in countries far away just a few hours ago. And we must really want to blame someone for all this. At least, we must seem so if this is how the day’s media real estate got apportioned.
Back in January, I posted a link to a sermon I love, “Guidelines for a Constructive Church” presented by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Ebenezer Baptist Church back in 1966. He based his sermon on a messianic text in the book of Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
King said that a constructive church binds up the brokenhearted. It gives hope to a disappointed and fearful people.
… Sunday after Sunday, week after week, people come to God’s church with broken hearts. They need a word of hope. And the church has an answer—if it doesn’t, it isn’t a church…[God] doesn’t say that you’re going to escape tension; he doesn’t say that you’re going to escape disappointment; he doesn’t say that you’re going to escape trials and tribulations. But what religion does say is this: that if you have faith in God, that God has the power to give you a kind of inner equilibrium through your pain. So let not your heart be troubled. “If ye believe in God, ye believe also in me.” Another voice rings out, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” As if to say, “Come unto me, all ye that are burdened down. Come unto me, all ye that are frustrated. Come unto me, all ye with clouds of anxiety floating in your mental skies. Come unto me, all ye that are broke down. Come unto me, all ye that are heartbroken. Come unto me, all ye that are laden with heavy ladens, and I will give you rest.” And the rest that God gives is the rest that passeth all understanding. The world doesn’t understand that kind of rest, because it’s a rest that makes it possible for you to stand up amid outer storms, and yet you maintain inner calm. If the church is true to its guidelines, it heals the broken-hearted.
Whether the grey sky we’ve been painted in the news is as newsworthy as an editor somewhere deems it to be matters less than what is truly newsworthy. As God’s people, we are bearers of news that eclipses the bleak financial storm with a lasting hope. In Christ, those who despair are transformed into people who praise. In Christ, tragic accidents and natural disaster are transformed from ashes into beauty. In Christ, mourning is turned to joy. In Christ, the brokenhearted are tended and comforted. Our great and merciful Editor has already determined that it is Jesus who is truly newsworthy, whose message and work is what can pierce the darkness of our times and our hearts. My prayer is to remember what is truly newsworthy and to reflect his beauty, tender heart, comfort and praise amidst the dark’s ashes.