‘Keeping watch’ as we watch the news

How can we consume the news in a productive, regenerating way? Starting from a spiritual standpoint is a valuable first step.

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Over the past few years I’d been spending a lot more time watching television news, and news alerts were pinging on my phone, demanding, “Stop everything and read me now!” While there’s value in being informed about what’s going on in the world around us, this felt almost like an addiction. I’ve found, though, that “blissful” ignorance isn’t a solution, either.

In thinking about this, an idea I’ve found so helpful is that God, good, is the one divine Mind. This all-knowing Mind can know nothing unlike itself, so it can’t actually know evil. Referring to this infinite Mind, God, the Bible says, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).

As God’s creation, the reflection of Mind, we have an inherent inclination to love our neighbor as ourselves – but not through obsessive preoccupation with what’s going on around us, looking the other way, or declaring that we are above it all. We can strive instead to watch or read the news as disciples following the example of Christ Jesus, who fearlessly confronted evil in the name of Almighty God, and who healed multitudes even as he was moved with compassion for them.

In other words, we can consume news as a dedicated spiritual thinker and healer, rather than as a helpless, frustrated onlooker. Here are some things I’ve learned about putting this into practice.

First, we can notice any anger, prejudice, ignorance, or lack – common themes presented in the news – coming to our own consciousness. It might seem that these disturbing things are “out there” in the thoughts of others and that we can’t control them. But we can search our own thought and root these traits out there.

That’s not always easy! They may be very subtle and seem perfectly justified. But Jesus taught us to cast the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the splinter from another’s (see Matthew 7:3-5). And as God’s own children, the expression of divine goodness, we are inherently capable of nurturing qualities such as patience, fairness, and generosity in the way we think about and interact with others.

Second, we can abandon the self-focused approach of consuming news merely to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe or to reinforce our own opinions. We can be motivated by genuine, God-inspired care and concern for people outside our inner circle.

Third, we can refuse to accept as intractable any social, political, or other discord, no matter how severe the particular circumstances might seem. Mary Baker Eddy, a follower of Jesus and the discoverer of Christian Science, wrote, “No evidence before the material senses can close my eyes to the scientific proof that God, good, is supreme” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 277). Each day we can take this stand. We can challenge fear, skepticism, or jaded feelings with the truth that “God, good, is supreme.”

Of course, merely quoting such statements or simply thinking about them doesn’t bring about the needed transformation, but understanding and living in accordance with these ideals does much for our own regeneration and contributes to making the world a better place. It’s about actively turning to God, divine Love, to find solutions, and letting this Love replace discordant thinking with Christly, healing compassion.

For instance, I’ve found it’s important to be merciful in our thoughts about those tasked with either reporting or commenting on social issues. Even though we might disagree with the substance of information or the way in which it’s conveyed, we can strive to let divine Truth and Love, rather than self-righteousness and self-justification, guide our own thoughts.

Finally, we can celebrate the good we do see as we watch or read the news, and recognize this good as evidence of God’s irresistible power. This means being alert to progress, expecting it, and rejoicing in it when it happens. When we do that, we find that we look at the world not with fear, frustration, or ignorance, but with a deeper love, a purer peace, and an expectant trust in God, good.

Adapted from an article published in the Sept. 6, 2021, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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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.”

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