Why I Never Watch The News

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I have some explaining to do. I am often asked what I think about various news shows and pundits and when I say “I don’t watch the news,” people are downright dumbfounded. Apparently, it is essential that a Christian be able to recite what O’Reilly, Beck, Hannity, and a host of others from Fox News say daily. I find that odd. Back when I could quote the Simpsons quite proficiently; a show from the same media company; no one ever thought that was fitting with Christian culture. I don’t watch the news…ever, if I can help it. Of course, there are plenty of restaurants and waiting rooms that are happy to show it to me. I’m always grateful for the reminders of why I don’t ever watch the news. However, its such a peculiar stance, I guess I should explain myself.

First of all, please remember that the biggest cable news networks are major entertainment companies. Their stock in trade is getting the viewer to keep watching. They know how to raise your pulse, make you smile, make you cry, make you see red. Further, their entertainment backgrounds drive the news they choose to show. Why is it important what Brad Pitt thinks of BP? Because Brad Pitt is their product. They need us to love or hate him so we’ll keep cheering or jeering him at the box office. Handing the news over to the entertainers has raised the importance of the dancing bears to astronomical levels and placed our civil discourse in the hands of those who prefer the dramatic as to the rational.

Please consider also that these entertainment companies have some technical expertise. Several years ago, I was on staff at a contemporary church. One of my many chores was to create video testimonies of our members. We had no video experts. I have a iMac and know how to use iMovie so it fell to me to edit these things. For one video, I was asked to edit in such a way as to change what the people said. It wasn’t hard to do and it made me wonder, what can the pros pull off. (By the way, I consider that a poor choice on my part. I’ve repented) Seeing is believing, so they say, but how do we know what we are seeing hasn’t been manipulated

So the companies have agendas? So the companies can manipulate how the news is presented? Maybe the problem is as simple as finding the news company which best fits our values? That’s easier said than done. The top three media companies are Disney, Time Warner, and NewsCorp. As news goes, that’s ABC, CNN, and Fox. If you stop to consider everything these massive corporations produce, its easy to conclude that they have no values but one: money. This is why Fox can produce Bible Study fodder movies under Fox Faith, and Family Guy for its Fox TV Network, or the NIV Study Bible under its Zondervan label and the Satanic Bible under one of many HarperCollins labels. Which values are at work in those decisions? The same values at work when it comes to the news: whatever sells, works. By the way, if you don’t think these divisions ever work together (one of the sales ladies at FoxFaith tried and tried to assure me that they don’t), consider this. When O.J. Simpson set out to release his book, “If I did it,” an almost confession to the murder of his ex-wife, this controversial, outrageous news was broken by none other than Bill O’Relly on FoxNew’s O’Reilly Factor. At the time (its changed hands since), News Corp’s HarperCollins published the book. Is this a case of true integrity; blowing the whistle on one’s own company? Maybe, more likely, its grand advertising; an any press is good press approach, disguised as news. Its money that decides what is news and money decides how the news is presented.

The news channels want us to believe it’s about other values. Last week, my family was on vacation which meant a hotel, and that meant cable. We use a ROKU box at home for Internet streaming of TV. Flipping through the news channels (I think we had Fox, CNN, and MSNBC) it was almost laughable to see the feigned emotions all over the map. Outrage and sympathy were as see-through as excitement on an infomercial. See-through or not, its working. Fox has managed to attract an audience for the sake of values. More than one person has told me that it’s the only news for Christians. It’s strange that none other than Fox is now feeding our faith.

So, after seeing that news was being manipulated by those who know how to manipulate, in order to convince the masses that companies with no morals were now moral crusaders, I flipped the switch. Done. I don’t watch the news. No, I’m not uninformed. I read it. There are a number of sources to read the news. Granted, a lot of those sources come from the same place, so I have to be cautious. I have to be a bit suspicious, like I am when Fox Faith calls to sell me a Bible study. I find it a little easier to take in print. By the way, if you don’t believe me, try it. Shut it off for a week. Stick to reading the news. You will be surprised at the difference. Just be ready for the bewildered looks you get when you say, “I don’t watch the news.”

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Politics: A New Gospel

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It is my belief that politics is one of the biggest threats to the gospel faced by conservative evangelicals. Certainly, we could point to various doctrinal debates that cut away crucial theology, but those are, for now, in the left, and evangelicals in the right are wary…for now. In this blog, I want to show you three concerns I have regarding politics, answer some common objections, and offer a simple plan of action.

Politics brings conservative theology to a crashing halt. Doctrinal lines are blurred when political lines are at stake. One only needs to consider how popular Glenn Beck is among conservative evangelicals. Beck’s faith (of which he is very vocal) is contrary to evangelical Christianity. His political views are what are seen as the common ground. Christians are willing to overlook doctrine for the sake of politics. The simple question could be asked, which is more important: sound Christology or political values?

Politics confuses Christians about what is most important. What issues seem to fire up evangelicals these days? Health care? Gay marriage? The Obama administration? Do we not believe that we serve a higher authority? Do we not believe in a Kingdom that exists far beyond the United States, or even Earth? Are we not living in the Already and Not Yet? Why so much concern about the temporary issues of a people that believe in an eternal reality? Do I think these things are important? Yes. I think we should take an active part in our society, living as representatives of Christ, but I wonder why these are often the most important issues. What matters to you more: the passing of the health care bill or the passing away of millions without Christ? Before you answer, could I look for the answer in your email forwards, Facebook profiles, and sermons?

Politics is a new pornography. The sources of most political information are entertainment companies. They are very skilled at reaching in and tickling those emotions that will keep you glued to the set. Your time is wasted. Your emotions are stirred up about something that may or may not be true, and you are essentially being controlled by something other than the Holy Spirit. Don’t believe me? Turn it off for one week. Go a week without any of it and see if you notice the difference. I swore off cable news two years ago. It is amazing how much difference it makes.

Maybe you think we live in urgent times. Are these times better or worse than the Roman Empire? Do we not face many of the same moral concerns of those days? The days of Jesus and the apostles had many political issues that would certainly bother Christians, yet there is little talk of it in the New Testament. Even when given an audience among government officials, Paul seems to be more interested in talking to them about Christ.

Perhaps, you believe that politics is the way to redeem society. Do you also think that you would change an apple tree into an orange tree by hanging oranges from the limbs? No, you would need to begin with a different seed. The same is true of politics. No country will ever be a Christian nation because it chooses Christian values. No law can be passed that will make this country more pleasing to God. If an evangelical desires to make a difference in the world, he should begin with the gospel.

Politics is quickly becoming another gospel. I have known one pastor to say that the US Constitution had in it the essence of the gospel. No, it absolutely does not, as it does not even mention Christ let alone His death for our sins and His resurrection. Evangelicals are setting aside the gospel in order to proclaim conservative values. We are joining forces with all kinds of anti-Christian entities to do so. Scripture says that if ANYONE proclaims another gospel, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).

Finally, I have some practical suggestions for evangelicals dealing with politics.

1) Consider your intake of political information. How much time do you spend reading or watching the news? How many hours do you spend listening to talk radio? Try this: for every hour you spend there, spend 20 minutes in the Bible. If you can’t do that, I think we see the problem.
2) Listen only to Christian leaders who proclaim the gospel as opposed to any political agenda. That’s what we are called to proclaim. If you find a talk-show host or preacher claiming to be Christian that doesn’t proclaim the gospel, turn it off. They are way too far off course to offer anyone direction.
3) Take a Great Commission inventory. Are you sharing the gospel and discipling believers? If not, you hardly have time for anything political.
4) What are you DOING politically? If your best effort is watching and listening while you whine, then you are doing nothing. If after devoting time to scripture and making sure you are following the Great Commission, you still feel that politics is an area of great concern, pray about what God would have you to DO and DO IT.

Remember; seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Everything else will be added to you.