May 17. 2022
How many times in recent months or, let’s face it, these past few years, have you said, “I just can’t watch (or listen) to the news anymore”? Or perhaps you have been addicted to the news, watching and listening more hours of the day than you know is healthy for you. Perhaps the radio or a cable news station accompanies your every move, wherever you are, whatever you are doing.
No surprise, for the news –local, national, and global–is upsetting, and that is stating it mildly.
Approaching the News as a Spiritual Practice
Jane Vennard in her book, Fully Awake and Truly Alive, Spiritual Practices to Nurture Your Soul (2013) says all spiritual practices can be divided into three categories. (page 87)
- Contemplative: caring for my body, resting, being silent, practicing solitude, praying, writing in my journal, walking mindfully,
- Communal: participating in the life of a faith community or other communities in which you gather with others to pay attention to the holy in your life,
- Missional: hospitality and service.
While the lines dividing the three types of spiritual practice are not always clear and well-defined, as Vennard points out, these categories of spiritual practice can help us become more intentional about our approach to the news.
Part of my morning meditation time, my intentional contemplative time sitting quietly in the garret or walking alone in the neighborhood, often is devoted to praying the news. I may simply name the issues or the people that worry me or touch my heart. I don’t pretend to have answers, but I lean my heart in the direction of those in need, those in pain or in the midst of sorrow and loss, and those who are trying to make a positive difference. Plus, I acknowledge and give thanks for the many gifts in my life; a life lived with ease and privilege and prosperity. I must never take that for granted.
Do my prayers matter? Well, that is a big question, but what I’ve noticed is that when I pray regularly I am more aware of the life around me. Near and far. When I watch or listen to or read the news, I pay attention to my responses. In a way I test my empathy level. Have I become hardened to the news? Do I sigh in disgust (“How could things possibly be worse?”) or descend into hopelessness (“That’s the way things are and what can we do about it anyway?”) Or do I approach the news looking for connection, for our common humanity, for reminders that God is counting on us to live into his love for us?
What I’ve discovered is that the more I pray, the more I find to pray about and the more I find to pray about the more I pray. And the more I pray, I don’t just pray the hurts, the losses, the fears, the unending challenges, but I also pray the love shown, the paths created, the courage, the care, and the revealed movement of God.
Along with this contemplative approach to the news, I have a communal practice. I am an active member of a faith community with a strong commitment to social justice issues. I value our gathering times when we lift not just our individual concerns, but our concerns for the world. Being part of a community gives me a base from which to move in the world, to respond to the news, and provides opportunities for the missional type of spiritual practice. Ways to serve.
Receiving the news is not only a way to stay informed, as important as that is, but it is also a way to strengthen my way of being in the world–as a contemplative who lives and serves with purpose in community. At least that is my aspiration.
My Choices: My News Sources
Even though I try to view my approach to news as a spiritual practice, the choices are overwhelming. Here’s my current buffet of choices:
- I listen to Minnesota Public Radio/National Public Radio when I get dressed in the morning and when I prepare meals or clean.
- I receive daily emails from The Washington Post and The New York Times.
- I read two online newsletters that I highly recommend: Robert Hubbell’s Today’s Edition Newsletter https://roberthubbell.substack.com and Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com
- I read the Sunday New York Times–not always on Sunday, however. I admit I start with the Book Review and some Sundays I don’t get much further than that, but even reading the rest of the paper on Tuesday or Wednesday is valuable.
- We watch the nightly PBS News Hour. Lately, we have fasted from watching any television news, but when we do, this is our choice.
it isn’t more light we need, it’s putting into practice what light we already have. When we do that, wonderful things will happen within our lives and within our world.Peace Pilgrim
What is your relationship to the news? What is your news strategy? I would love to know.