Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is
anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
--Philippians 4:8 NRSV
Back in the day when I still watched the evening news on one of the three broadcast networks, I recall each 30-minute program basically breaking down into about 12 minutes of commercials, 15 minutes of headline news that was typically all negative, and a final 2-3 minute story that was positive. (I assume this is still the case?) This final feel-good story was sort of like an after-dinner mint. It was a palate cleanser, so you didn’t leave the broadcast feeling bad after watching all the “serious” news.
Today it seems like the non-stop news updates on our phones, news stories shared on social media and 24-hour cable news channels have left us only with the bad taste in our mouths. Even the after dinner mint of good news is difficult to find. In my social media feeds, I’ve seen this non-stop consumption of bad news described with the term “doomscrolling,” as in continuing to scroll through our social media unable to stop taking in the negative. Instead of merely being informed about what goes on in our society or learning enough to do something positive in order to make the world a better place, “doomscrolling” amounts to a fixation on the negative for no real healthy purpose.
It turns out there may be a reason for our doomscrolling. This morning the New York Times had some interesting news about media coverage of the last few years. A research study of national US media found it overwhelmingly negative when compared to other Western media. The study didn’t offer a conclusive reason for this negativity but did note that media outlets seemed to be giving consumers what they want. News articles shared tended to be almost exclusively negative. Most journalists, the piece noted, were less concerned with consumer demand than with trying to expose the truth that politicians, celebrities and powerbrokers want to hide. Yet, its author admitted, “our healthy skepticism can turn into reflexive cynicism, and we end up telling something less than the complete story.” Media consumers who want “the complete story” may have to work hard to find positive news to balance out the negative.
Minister and writer Vince Amlin shares about well-meaning Christians overwhelmed by the deluge of bad news:
Most of us believe that being informed citizens and compassionate churchgoers means faithfully taking our daily dose of world tragedy. The results are predictably toxic. Bad news piles up until we feel paralyzed with powerlessness.
I get this. Any who wish to follow Jesus need to avoid denying just how bad the world can often be, but if we only focus on the bad news, we do not see the full story of what God is doing in our world. In a culture apparently obsessed with bad news, we need to be on our guard against doomscrolling.
The word “gospel” literally means “good news,” but maybe we have domesticated the “good news” into a religious formula that amounts only to a ticket to heaven rather than a worldview. In order to remain faithful to God’s demands of justice, peace, mercy and love, we cannot afford to give into despair. Despair, or worse indifference, accomplishes nothing in terms of making this world a better place. Instead, we must commit ourselves to looking for the good news of where God is at work in our world, so we are inspired to join in. This requires us to heed the Apostle Paul’s encouragement “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
The next time you find yourself doomscrolling walk away from the phone, tablet, computer or TV and focus on the blessings you have, the people you love and the good things of God constantly happening all around you.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
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We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.