Beyond the buzz of gossip news

A Christian Science perspective.

No need to wait for the office kitchen conversation or the over-the-fence chat. The latest gossip is always just a click away. A recent comScore poll shows that visits to entertainment websites such as TMZ.com and TheInsider.com are on the rise among Americans – and that almost half of these visits occur during the workday ("Don't tell the boss: millions of Americans browse gossip sites at work," CSMonitor.com, July 1). This May, according to the poll, Americans spent more than 893 million minutes – something like 15 million hours – on gossip sites, with 44 percent of that time attributed to hours during the typical workday.

No doubt those numbers soared even higher in June, which saw the untimely death of pop star Michael Jackson and the infidelity of South Carolina's governor, Mark Sanford. The fascination with celebrity news points to several issues – escapism from the daily grind, relief from news dominated by sobering issues like increased job losses, the ups and downs of the stock market, and friction on the world scene. And perhaps, too, a degree of thinking along these lines: "That person may appear to have it all, but look how much better off I am...."

Whether or not one is interested in celebrity news, it's often unavoidable. And the insatiable appetite for gossip news deserves prayerful thought. How important it is to watch the thoughts we entertain about ourselves and others, and to live by a model that is observant, selective, and contemplative about the information we feed on.

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The Christ-model for right thinking and acting is a good place to begin. The Christ is actually the Godlike identity of every one of us. It is the affirmation of God's love and healing power in our lives. You could say that adhering to the Christ-model, represented so perfectly by Jesus, is a bit like signing up for an RSS feed or a "twitter following" to the best news there is.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote that "Jesus was the highest human concept of the perfect man. He was inseparable from Christ, the Messiah, – the divine idea of God outside the flesh" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 482). Now there's an example to follow! When looking at the news, it's worth asking yourself, "How is the Christ – the true idea of manhood and womanhood – represented in this person/situation?"

Often, celebrity news is full of untruths and exaggerated statements. It would attempt to reduce even the best in people to the lowest standards, pointing out the weakest parts rather than lifting thought higher to a purer conception of manhood and womanhood. Other times, it would appear the statements are factual. But despite an individual's past, the Christ attests only to the purity and truth of being, and prayer affirms only what is honest. Far from turning a blind eye to moral ills, prayer has a way of bringing to the surface whatever is dishonest or impure for the purpose of healing. These lines from Proverbs help to advise and instruct thought: "He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.... The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment" (12:17, 19).

Despite all the good Jesus did, the lying and false witnesses to his stature as the Son of God still attempted to argue their case. These lies wouldn't have been perpetuated if they hadn't had the consent of those who spread the gossip about him, denying that he was the Messiah. Will we listen to their report today by denying the Christliness of our neighbor? Or by choosing to focus on an individual's weaknesses rather than their strengths? The real task is to take the news at hand and reverse the fixation on weaknesses and failures – or on merely a materialistic representation of life – and see that right there is the man or woman of God's creating. Rather than submitting to curiosity, speculation, even pity about what might appear as a life lost or tainted, how important it is to focus on the permanent goodness that is a fact for each one of us and defines the imprint of our lives eternally.

Jesus practiced this, and he asked that his disciples follow him. "Jesus mapped out the path for others. He unveiled the Christ, the spiritual idea of divine Love" (Science and Health, p. 38). Through his example we can each chart our path toward a clearer understanding and demonstration of divine Love.

Such a path is marked by spiritual purpose. This always has a healing effect, whether we hear news of someone having lost millions, or of addiction, or serious illness in a family. When Jesus heard such news, he turned to his divine Father for the true news – the good news of the Gospel – and let that shape his thoughts and acts. His commitment to truth instead of gossip changed and saved people's lives. Ultimately, his message and practice changed the world. As his followers, we too can point the way to truth, which still leads inevitably to healing and regeneration.

Reprinted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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