Engaging with the news productively, not fearfully

Though staying informed about public health issues is important, the barrage of information about the coronavirus – and, in some cases, misinformation – can feel overwhelming. But opening our hearts to God’s love inspires wise and reasoned actions instead of panic-impelled reactions.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Often while driving or cooking, I enjoy the companionship of familiar voices on my favorite news program, keeping me informed while I sit in traffic or slice tomatoes. Lately, though, I’ve found listening a bit less pleasant because it seems the main topic is how I might catch the coronavirus if I leave my house. One might start to conclude that there is no safety anywhere, and it’s understandable that lately the anxiety in the air feels as thick as smog during rush hour.

I appreciate the media’s sharing of facts, which helps to combat the spread of misguided theories and false stories. It’s responsible to have accurate information about the current situation. Reporters doing their work in the face of frightening conditions are to be commended. But how we choose to consume and respond to the wide range of information is also of utmost importance.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science in the 19th century, had a deep respect for the role of the media, as well as direct experience with its complexities. She once wrote: “Looking over the newspapers of the day, one naturally reflects that it is dangerous to live, so loaded with disease seems the very air. These descriptions carry fears to many minds, to be depicted in some future time upon the body” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 7).

I’ve found it’s not helpful to get swept up in the general drift of fear. When we let an emotional response lead, it can lead to unwise actions.

Recently, in a moment of feeling overwhelmed by the torrent of coverage of the coronavirus, I actually asked myself, “What would Jesus say about all of this?” I recalled an instruction he gave to his disciples at one point while talking to them about the future: “Don’t panic” (Matthew 24:6, New Living Translation). He wasn’t saying that problems would never emerge. But his entire ministry showed that we can actively trust in God, infinite Love itself, to protect us.

When we turn our thoughts to the presence of God and God’s pure goodness, this lifts the fear that can overwhelm us. The Bible says that Love destroys fear (see I John 4:18). This divine Love is deeper than a human, emotional love. It’s solid, infinite, spiritual, expressed in all of God’s children, which includes each one of us. This presence is so powerful, its tender care so universal, that we can trust and rely on it, moment by moment, for anything we are facing.

As we let this divine Love lead us, rather than yielding to panic or anxiety, we contribute to the general mental atmosphere of peace and calm that comes from discerning God’s supremacy. God’s power is a force for good – in fact, the only legitimate force in the universe – and the divine Spirit, or Love, is omnipotent and supremely reliable in every circumstance. We can feel it when we actively choose to listen for the calm, clear, productive thoughts God is sending us at every moment, rather than drifting along with the tendency to overreact or allowing ourselves to be carried away with worry and expectation of evil. Indulging these unproductive sentiments can contribute to an unhealthy movement of thought.

In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mrs. Eddy wrote of a way to counteract unhelpful atmospheres of thought: “Truth and Love antidote this mental miasma, and thus invigorate and sustain existence” (p. 274).

Though I still tune in to the news to stay informed, these ideas have helped me respond more productively. In the quiet moments between reports, I find peace and strength in reflecting on the goodness of divine Love that permeates the universe, despite whatever challenges we face individually and collectively. These clear, simple thoughts contribute to a mental atmosphere that is safer and supportive of health and progress for all, inspiring wise and reasoned actions rather than fear-impelled reactions.

Each of us has the power to share in this effort. We can engage with the media – and appreciate the brave, thorough work of many reporters – and respond in a constructive way that brings not panic and loneliness, but peace and unity. Then, even the most discouraging moments give way to a more certain sense that divine Love is encircling us all.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.