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“Ask a Priest: What’s a Distressed News Junkie to Do?”
Q: Is there any true hope left in this world? I am a self-described news junkie, which might be contributing to my distress. However, it seems that every day there is yet another incident of self-absorbed hatred, violence, or simple lack of compassion for our fellow man. Whether it be the police being targeted, or the non-stop political posturing that we are flooded with on a daily basis, it seems that no one really looks out for one another. Yes, there are the occasional “human interest” stories put forth, but even the religious foundations which I was brought up with seem to be an unstoppable example of hypocrisy, with members of the clergy being brought up on charges of the most heinous nature. And those who I was taught to believe were the channels of the Word instead play word-games to limit their liability. Would a true God allow for such madness to exist for so many years? I have so often found myself questioning the existence of such a presence, as it would take but the merest lifting of a finger to prove one’s existence to quell virtually all of the turmoil in the world. I have read those parts of the Bible which deal with the necessity of such events to occur as a prelude to the return of Jesus, but at what point is enough proven to be enough? Can the narcissistic mentality of so many human beings really be a requirement to herald a Second Coming? In desperate hope of an answer … -R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I think it was C.S. Lewis who, when asked why he didn’t read newspapers, said something like, “Because they make unnatural demands on my sympathies.”
Overexposure to the news can make anyone despondent — which might be a good reason to limit your exposure to the news. One strategy is to just glance at a newspaper for a few minutes daily, and then focus on more uplifting things, such as prayer, Bible reading, acts of charity, spending time with your family, etc.
It is good to remember that news reporting is part of a business, and in order to “succeed” it often plays to people’s fears and present exceptional things (which make for catchy headlines), rather than present a balanced vision of the good and bad. Unfortunately, good news isn’t often thought of as news. This is all the more reason why secular news outlets shouldn’t be our primary window on the world.
The world has always been a mess. That God didn’t give up on us is a great sign of his mercy. So much did he love us that he sent us his Son.
Imitate that Son as best you can. That is how you will give glory to God, bring a bit of light into the world, and maybe, with divine grace, become a saint. That is what life is really about. So do yourself a favor: Limit your intake of news. But not the Good News that Jesus brought.