Since I can’t do a single thing about what is going on in the halls of power, because the world has gone insane and I haven’t quite figured out how to be a Christian disciple in the middle of it yet, I will tell you about something God is doing in me during this time. My hope is that if you see a bit of yourself in my story, you will seek God’s guidance as well.
About a year ago I started questioning my relationship with news and social media because of a random tide of books and writers that came to my attention….The book tide started with Cal Newport’s Deep Work. I was finding difficulty concentrating on a big writing project. Reading Newport’s history of people deep diving into a project by cloistering themselves away for days or weeks when I couldn’t even stay off Facebook for an hour, made me feel that I had lost something vital to my life. Nick Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains only deepened my conviction.
I wondered if any Christians were thinking about these sorts of things….Alan Jacobs, a Lit Professor at Baylor….Jacobs is the sort of thoughtful Christian who loves the Lord with all his mind, to borrow a phrase from J.P. Moreland. He was talking about our relationship with technology and I was gut checked when I read his manifesto about social media:
• I don’t have to say something just because everyone around me is.
• I don’t have to speak about things I know little or nothing about.
• I don’t have to speak about issues that will be totally forgotten in a few weeks or months by the people who at this moment are most strenuously demanding a response.
• I don’t have to spend my time in environments that press me to speak without knowledge.
• If I can bring to an issue heat, but no light, it is probably best that I remain silent.
• Private communication can be more valuable than public.
• Delayed communication, made when people have had time to think and to calm their emotions, is almost always more valuable than immediate reaction.
• Some conversations are be more meaningful and effective in living rooms, or at dinner tables, than in the middle of Main Street.
My desire to comment was often less about giving an answer for the hope within me and more about my need to self-validate.I believe then that the Holy Spirit started working on me. Other things started washing ashore along with Jacobs. Scripture verses. Old Christian wisdom from classic texts. I’m thick headed but I got the point. I cut Facebook down to once a day. I made a hard and fast rule to never argue with memes after reading studies about why we post them. Usually, to signal to our tribe that we are still loyal or to make ourselves feel better.
I slowly turned off what Jacobs calls the “dire hose” which refers to the “information, misinformation, and agitation” that raises the heart rate and respiration. You know that feeling when you are so upset you can barely put thoughts together, but your fingers itch to share and vent and own someone’s stupid argument? Maybe the news fills you with so much fear you can’t sleep because you are wondering if you have enough peanut butter and beans when the world collapses? Did I buy enough gold? Should I buy a gun or a food dehydrator? That’s the dire hose.
Putting down the dire hose for me, was realizing I was not promised a life of only middle-class American problems. Neither were our children. Why should I be spared inconvenience and marginalizing when so, so many Christians have drunk deep from the cup of suffering?
I almost kicked the habit, then on January 6, I fell off the wagon. Within hours, I was scrolling Fox News and CNN. I was hitting up sources I trust on Twitter. I was absolutely ravenous for what? Information and agitation. I picked up the dire hose and drank so deep, I sloshed when I walked, caught in the vicious cycle of News, Twitter, and Facebook. I read a study that said angry people are more susceptible to misinformation. The dire hose makes me angry, which might make me more likely to discard good evidence and accept evidence that confirms my biases which makes me more angry, making me more vulnerable.
I think the Holy Spirit was knocking on the door of my heart saying, “Why do you need this? What it is it for?” and the answer was worry, fear, anger, were all substitutes for faith. Why do the nations rage and plot a vain thing? Psalm 2 says, God laughs because nothing is beyond him. “I have installed my king on Zion.” God’s got this. Furthermore, what can Ido about what I see on the news at that moment? What does it profit me that I know about the fourth person that died at the Capital? After all, the Christian response is not to destroy property, take up arms against the kings of the world, is it?
No, let the nations rage. Let the specters of uncertainty trailing fear, despair, and disappointment wail on. I will not participate in the insane exercise of immersing myself in that which I cannot change. Instead,I will meditate on the word of God. I will take Paul’s council to the Thessalonians: "Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one" (1 Thessalonians:4:9).