I’ve been spending quite a bit of time, lately, in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah because I will be the Bible study speaker for a women’s conference in April and the theme Scripture comes from Jeremiah Chapter 29.
I feel strongly about learning the full context and background of any Scripture I speak about, so I’ve been digging into Jeremiah.
Jeremiah is the wordiest book in the Bible and many of the words are warning and chastisement, so it isn’t my usual choice for personal study.
One thing I read this morning, though, in Chapter 23 (Contemporary English Version), is a message Jeremiah conveys from God telling his prophets not to tell the people they have “news from God”. God even uses a bit of word play here when he says that “news” is a “nuisance”. (In the Hebrew these words don’t just have similar syllables, they are actually the same word.)
My mother is hard of hearing, so whatever she watches on television is broadcast throughout the house, whether we want to listen, or not. When she isn’t watching the Golf Channel, Mom usually watches the news. So, even though I prefer to get my current events updates from the newspaper, where I can choose which items interest me, I frequently hear the news chosen for my ears by the TV programmers.
When I have to hear the earth-shakingly important item that Diet Coke has surpassed Diet Pepsi in popularity, or the latest poor judgment displayed by some “celebrity”, it can be a real nuisance.
More than that, when the news readers give their constant teasers of the latest bad news or calamity, promising the full-story after the commercial breaks, they are deliberately trying to whip up worries or concerns that will insure that their audience “stays tuned”.
They even hold back certain stories for “full details at 11”. This is not because they don’t have time to tell the full story now. It is to force you to stay up for the late news to hear all the important details.
Too much of modern news reporting is sensational and alarmist. Just as the entertainment shows exist in order to get us to watch the commercials, so too, the news has to grab the audience and hold it. There is little regard for the feelings or stress levels of the viewers.
God was instructing the prophets to stop telling the people what they wanted to hear. His true message at the time was an unpopular and uncomfortable one and the prophets wanted the people to like them and to continue to listen to what they had to say. they didn’t want to lose their audience.
Today’s prophets of nightly news have the same agenda, only they have stooped beyond giving the people false optimism and dipped into fear mongering or appealing to our lower natures.
In doing that they have moved from nuisance to anathema.
There is more than enough bad news to report these days, from natural disasters and political unrest to economic downturns. A news program that gives us the facts and even provides some realistic reassurance now and again would be a most welcome change, at least in my house.