Magazine article The Christian Century

Consumed by the News

Magazine article The Christian Century

Consumed by the News

Article excerpt

Ever since I started using my smartphone as a morning alarm clock, my wake-up habits have shifted. Instead of engaging in prayer to open my day--once a regular feature of my rising--or paying attention to the chipmunk that chirps outside my window, or conversing softly with my wife, I check the news. When I lean over the edge of the bed to shut off the alarm, I notice my screen displaying news alerts that arrived overnight. Of course I click on them, wondering what I might have heroically saved in the world had I stayed up all night.

While this reflex to tune into the news immediately is not as frightening to me as living in a household where Fox News or CNN saturates viewer eyeballs 24/7, it still troubles me. Like a billion other people, I'm consumed by the news. By the way, do we actually consume the news, or does the news consume us? Either way, it's hardly a noble activity.

Alain de Botton, a British-based philosopher and author of The News: A User's Manual, believes that in contemporary culture news has largely replaced religion as "our central source of guidance and our touchstone of authority." The news--not scripture, tradition, or inspired ritual--informs how we handle suffering and make moral choices. A desire to know what's going on all hours of the day and night actually makes us more shallow than we may want to admit.

I have long thought that keeping up with the news is part of what it takes to be an engaged and enlightened citizen. …

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