It was a rough week in the news: more mass graves of Indigenous children; a collapsed condominium; a ‘heat dome’ on the west coast; an entire town destroyed by fire. Why, even the Gulf of Mexico was burning – literally on fire if you can believe it, fuelled by a broken offshore pipeline.
And there sat Canada Day, right in the middle of it all. Most of us didn’t know what to do with our national birthday this year: celebrating felt wrong, but not celebrating felt wrong too. So we sat still.
Way back last autumn I drastically reduced the amount of news I was watching each day. The relentless pandemic added sadness to the headlines but it was the daily rantings of an unwell President that truly ground me down. I realized that I had become another of his victims, uncharacteristically bristling and reacting to the strife around me, so I stopped watching him – literally changing the channel whenever he appeared.
It wasn’t long until Cheryl commented that she was tired of the overall negativity too, so we went a step further and hacked most news out of our lives. We now only watch enough to stay informed: a bit in the morning and a bit at night. Guess what? We are just as knowledgeable now but we feel better about ourselves and the world!
When Cheryl and I restrict the negatives in our lives, we’re not hiding from reality, we’re finding balance in the reality.
it’s not not my fault
Technology has introduced so many various inputs into our lives that we end up absorbing truckloads of unfiltered negativity. That’s unhealthy in itself but over time the volume of noise and fear overwhelms us until we simply have to dump it on others.
I saw a meandering article this week from a conservative christian website which I read out of respect to the person who re-posted it. But it was drenched in so much misrepresentation and selective ignorance that it was almost comical. In fact, I skimmed through the last half because I just couldn’t take it seriously. The author made no sense but he sure did offload a lot of anger onto the rest of us which was the only point I could see.¹
What kind of people write/say things like that? People who are afraid, that’s who. They holler and confront but it’s hardly ever about moral high ground or defending their rights, like they suggest. Like the bully in the schoolyard, they’re actually covering up an underlying insecurity: they are afraid because their world is changing and they aren’t willing to adapt. The only option they have is to be aggressive.
When you look closely at the loudest editorialists, politicians, pastors, and social media you will discover a lot of willing ignorance. Do we really need to fret and obsess as much as we do? Is anything ever accomplished by angrily saying what we think all the time? Unfortunately it’s much easier to judge others than to manage ourselves.
There is a cool story in the Bible about a crazy man, a bunch of demons, Jesus, and a herd of pigs that committed suicide. (Told you it was cool!) At any rate, it’s complicated enough that you probably should read it here.
There is so much in this story to not understand. Did this really happen or was it a parable? What’s with all the demons? Why did the demons have the same name used to describe the Roman armies? Why did Jesus have mercy on them? Why a pig story in a Jewish culture? Why wholesale self-slaughter in a river? So many weirdnesses, right?
But for me the climax of the story is the reaction of the community after Jesus had healed a hurting, dangerous man: They asked Jesus to leave… now!
Why? Because the cost of this type of healing was an unacceptable disruption to their way of life. The frantic imagining of the villagers kept them enslaved to their circumstances while the man at the centre of the story was able to walk away in freedom. That’s how it works in the “last will be first/first will be last” ways of Jesus.
it’s not you, it’s me
Today, Jesus’ ideas of goodness and justice are still a disruption to our comfortable way of life. If you doubt that, let somebody else have the last word because they matter more than winning. Or try being open-minded, generous, peaceful, loving when it inconveniences you, costs you, or prevents you from having your way.
I’m not talking about letting truth die; just toning down our selfishness. It’s difficult, but sometimes it’s best for us all.
I really long for peace and kindness in our society, but especially among christians. Wouldn’t it be great if we could disagree without the vilification, vindictiveness, and insecurity? Is that too much to ask of people who claim to be disciples of Jesus?² I’m of the opinion that if christians acted like christians, the world would immediately be transformed. And we could enjoy watching the news.
We need to consider that every person we dislike has hurts, insecurities, and fears like we do. It’s elementary, I know, but those we disagree with are also created in the image of God. Whatever you fear is not from God; in fact, God’s love pushes fear away.
I read something last week that stuck with me: Remember, if you are close to Jesus, that also means he is close to you. So give up your frantic imagining and choose freedom.
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¹ When someone repeatedly uses the word ‘woke’ as an insult, best to ignore them. (woke: adjective, alert to injustice in society, especially racism)
² Honestly, those are indicators that someone is not a disciple.