Mark Twain once said, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” For years now, this is how I’ve felt about the 24-hour news cycle, which is full of dire predictions of economic collapse, environmental disaster, approaching plagues and political tyrants coming to destroy our nation. Time and again, these panicked predictions of our impending demise turn out to have been greatly exaggerated. This is why I’ve stopped falling for click-bait headlines and no longer turn on the television to watch political pundits argue.
There is, of course, value to keeping up with current events, but the problem is that most of the news offered today won’t help us remain informed. Instead, the goal is to keep us anxious and outraged. The more anxious and outraged we are, the more we feel the need to consume the news. It’s a cycle of addiction, and it harms our soul. The fruit of the Spirit is joy not anxiety, kindness not anger, peace not outrage. If the news is producing rotten fruit, it’s time to turn it off.
I absorb a minimal amount of news content and refuse to watch any cable news, subscribe to newspapers (except the Review, of course! Which I’ve found to be outrage-free, a model of news done well), or listen to political talk on the radio. It seems to me that a number of my friends and family are unusually anxious about the state of the world today. A lot of time is being spent on worry and fear. As an experiment, I listened to the news on the radio to see what’s happening — it was horrifying. With only 10 minutes of listening, I became convinced my life was sliding into a pit of disaster. My pulse raced as I was informed about political overlords, pandemics, protests and economic collapse.
I turned off the radio, confused. Prior to listening, I’d been completely unaware of how bad my life supposedly is. I reflected. I thought about how wonderful my family is, how great my job is, how my life is blessed and amazing in ways I do not deserve and for which I cannot show God enough gratitude. I considered the fact that God has promised to take care of us and has sent His angels to watch over us. The anxiety disappeared.
Listening to the news created within me an irrational panic. It hadn’t made me more informed. All it did was manipulate me into anger and despair, an emotional state with no relation to my actual experience of life.
What if we turned off the news? Or at least consumed far less of it? We could spend that time with our families, in prayer, reading a good book, enjoying our lives. This is true wisdom, to see the world the way that God sees it, as an expression of His divine goodness and love. Sure, in this world there are always troubles, but with God on our side, everything works together, striving toward the good.
Father Rennier is pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have six children.