I've noticed something about the programming from one of our local all-news radio stations. At least once an hour, it has an update on the ongoing tensions between the United States and Iraq. There is a recorded promo that comes on just before. "Special report! The war with Saddam."
The music pulses strongly, and then the news anchor comes in. Most of the time there isn't anything special to report. But the words of the promo and the music, combined, catch my attention - and cause me to listen to hear what's just happened.
My guess is that the promo and the heightened tension it creates end up alarming people rather than informing them. I think the station's intent is simply to promote its news organization: If you want to know what's going on, tune in to us. But the effect induces fear. It's the kind of fear that created a run on water, plastic, and duct tape when the country changed the terror alert stage from yellow to orange last week.
Fearmongering sells papers and magazines and draws people to websites. One popular website I visit frequently tends to have alarming headlines, but when I follow through on the link to the actual story, there's nothing there to get excited about. That sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach has all been for nothing.
That's why it's wise to ask ourselves, Am I being informed or alarmed? This has a clear-cut practical application in our choice of reading and viewing matter, but it also goes deeper. There is a spiritual consideration as well.
In today's environment, fear often develops and takes over when the spiritual dimension of life is ignored. When factoring in the spiritual, people often find that they no longer feel helpless. They begin to realize that there is a divine source of power and care in their lives. They also learn that this spiritual power can act in a way that uncovers evil and defends people from it.
The Bible often refers to the wisdom and guidance, the counsel and knowledge, that comes from Spirit, God. The book of Psalms, for example, often speaks of how this guidance kept the writer out of danger - and these psalms are a source of guidance and inspiration that continues to deliver people from trouble today. This idea of divine intelligence and spiritual guidance from God comes up so often in the Bible that in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the author, Mary Baker Eddy, frequently refers to God as divine Mind.
When we seek counsel from this divine Mind, we leave what seems to be a universe of chance and irrational evil, and begin discovering the underlying Principle of life that is governed by divine Mind. When fear is taken out of the picture, we think and act more rationally and effectively. Mrs. Eddy, the founder of this paper, raised this important point: "Acquaintance with the Science of being enables us to commune more largely with the divine Mind, to foresee and foretell events which concern the universal welfare, to be divinely inspired, - yea, to reach the range of fetterless Mind" (pg. 84).
If we are truly concerned about "the universal welfare," then it's important to find sources of information that inform rather than alarm.
The media often informs us about truly dangerous situations. These must be reported if people are to find ways to defuse them. The key is not to let fear cloud our judgment or to cause us to act thoughtlessly or to be manipulated. The greatest help in doing this is to keep the spiritual dimension of life in view.
The divine counsel and guidance the Psalmist spoke of are available today. This assures us that there is an answer, that there is a caring divine power that will guide us through dangerous experiences. This assurance often gives people the inspiration and courage to act on things in ways that benefit the "universal welfare."
We can hope that more and more the media will find ways to raise the alarm without being alarmist, without increasing fear. We need to be informed in a way that enables us to act effectively. The more we keep aware of the "counsel of the Lord," the better this will be done.