“Keeping watch” as we watch the news
I began to ask myself, “What’s behind a compulsive need for news?”
Over the past few years I’d become something of a newshound. I was spending a lot more time watching television news, and news alerts were pinging on my phone, demanding, “Stop everything and read me now!” I was afraid that if I missed something—if I wasn’t fully informed at all times—I would somehow be more vulnerable to danger and evil. It felt almost like an addiction, so I began to ask myself, “What’s behind a compulsive need for news?”
I realized that it is not unusual to think that knowing more about the problems of the world is a form of self-protection, in that the more we know about a problem, the less likely we are to be ambushed by it. Is that really true? Are we more in control of a situation if we know all about potential pitfalls? Many of us have found that we’re not—that the hunger for a constant stream of human information leads only to more fear and confusion.
Because of this, some people have decided to simply stay off the internet, cancel their newspaper subscriptions, and exchange news channels for programs that promise happy stories with cheery endings. I’ve found, though, that “blissful” ignorance isn’t a solution, either. In fact, ignoring current events and being obsessed with them turn out to be two sides of the same coin. That “coin” is the mistaken belief that we have a mind of our own that feels either safer sizing up material events in a material world, or happier trying to ignore world problems completely.
The remedy for this is to pray to realize that we don’t actually have a mind separate from God. God is the one Mind—the only Mind—and 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) .
Because each of us is God’s creation, the reflection of Mind, none of us is a mortal fascinated by evil. We have an inherent inclination to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is not expressed in obsessive preoccupation with what’s going on around us, looking the other way, or dismissively declaring 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.
When I was new to the practice of Christian Science, an experienced Christian Science practitioner told me that each night before the news was broadcast on television, she would ask God if there was anything in the news that night that she needed to pray about. Sometimes the answer was no, and she wouldn’t listen to that night’s newscast. But if the answer was yes, she would watch the news as a Christian Science practitioner. She would pray about each situation as if something had been brought to her attention by a patient calling to ask for Christian Science treatment.
We can strive to watch or read the news as disciples, following the example of Christ Jesus.
Over the years, I’ve thought again and again about what she said, and it has helped me to watch the news as a spiritual thinker and dedicated spiritual healer, not as a helpless, frustrated onlooker. Here is what 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).
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 care and concern for people outside our inner circle. Mary Baker Eddy wrote to one of her students: “. . . you never can be a practical Christian Scientist without healing the sick and sinner besides yourself. It is too selfish for us to be working for ourselves and not others as well. God does not bless it” (Yvonne Caché von Fettweis and Robert Townsend Warneck, Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, page 277).
Third, we can refuse to accept as intractable any ugly evidence of the physical senses, even if it seems that the rest of the world has accepted it. Mrs. Eddy 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,” no matter how severe the particular circumstances might seem.
Fourth, we can refuse to be hypnotized by the repetition of evil. When praying for healing through Christian Science, we don’t ruminate on the physical symptoms; instead, we quickly turn to God, divine Love, to find solutions. Similarly, we don’t have to allow social and political discord to overwhelm our conviction that global healing can happen. Instead, we can 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 refuse to condemn those who deliver it; we can strive to eliminate self-righteousness and self-justification in our own thoughts. God, divine Truth, informs and adjusts.
Above all, we can be quick to follow reports of struggle and upheaval with clear realizations of truth. For example, I am learning, when I hear about inequality, to declare more consistently that “God shows no favoritism” (Acts 10:34, New Living Translation) and that “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 13). Of course, merely quoting these 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 both our own regeneration and the healing of nations.
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 awake to progress, expecting it, and rejoicing in it when it happens. When we do that, we find that we look at the world with a deeper love, a purer peace, and an expectant trust in God, good.