Dear Friends,

I have not watched the news on television in over 40 years. Obviously there has been the odd time when I have been waiting somewhere and the television had news on and I ended up watching a bit of the news. I will watch sport news sometimes – but catching the sports highlights is not really watching the news. Sports news is not serious, like “real” news. When people get into arguments about Fox News, I am silent – I don’t watch CNN, CBC, MSNBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, Fox News or YouTube News – so I do not join in the argument about Fox. While we are on this subject, I do not listen to the news on the radio either, unless I am driving and don’t want to change the channel because I am waiting for the traffic update. Why do I do this – or maybe I should say, “Why do I not watch or listen to News?”

Blame it on an eccentric, brilliant Frenchman by the name of Jacques Ellul. He lived 1912 to 1994. He was a Christian philosopher, sociologist, and theologian who taught for many years at the University of Bordeaux in France. While I was in university doing my undergraduate degree, I carefully read several of his books, most notably “The Technological Society” and the book “Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes.”  By the way, I had no idea if these books still read well, or if they are very dated. Be that as it may, I found these books very insightful and they have probably affected my thinking in too many ways to notice. One impact the books had on me was I stopped watching or listening to the news. As often as possible, I try to get all my news by reading.

There are many problems with television and radio news, but the main one is that it is too easy for them to manipulate the viewer/listener. The visual or audio segment appears to be “real” and “objective”. It moves quickly and seamlessly along. It touches us emotionally. But these are all problems not advantages. Written work can also be manipulative propaganda, but a written story is slower. It is far easier to go back and check something written earlier. You notice the by-line and writers and sources far more easily.

Please note, I am not saying that “print” or “written” news is more accurate or wiser. I am saying the very medium of print is less manipulative, and so it is far more possible to read critically and with discernment. It is more likely, not guaranteed, but more likely that you will think about what you read, analyzing what is said. Visual images and sound effects quickly by pass the intellect – unless you are disciplined and careful.

I have shared before the if I had a “life verse”, it would be our memory verse for this week, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV) I know the bible does not talk about television and radio and social media directly. But the bible is concerned with what is forming you. The Lord wants you to be free from idols and free to truly live and love to the good of people and the glory of God. So consider stopping doing what easily manipulates you.