What is “News” to you?

I just had to convey the following thoughts to you. A fine young blogger named Tony Reinke digested a sermon on this topic, and wrote an article entitled, Cross-Centered News Consumption. Here are several good paragraphs….

What constitutes true news is, for the Christian, no easy question to answer. But neither is this a new question. Long before the “information age,” an obscure Puritan preacher named Henry Hurst (1629-1690) delivered a sermon to answer the question: “How may we inquire after news, not as Athenians, but as Christians, for the better management of our prayers and praises for the Church of God?” His text was Acts 17:21—“Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”

Hurst understood the attraction we all have to the latest news, not because of its intrinsic importance, but due to our Athenian-like insatiable inquiry to feed on a stream of fresh tidbits. And I don’t claim innocence here. Often my news consumption habits are as defendable as the Athenians.

In Hurst’s sermon he begins by breaks news into three categories:

A. Trifling reports. These reports are, “below the gravity and prudence of a man to receive from a reporter, or to communicate to any hearer.” Think petty rumors spread in gossip columns, blogs, or in conversations at Starbucks, the fascination into who Michael Jackson is dating, the National Inquirer, much daytime television, etc.

B. Personal and private matters. These reports are “of no more concern to a judge or magistrate or the public than a scuffle of boys in their sports to a general and his army.” These are stories with very little consequence, that should have remained a private issue, but have become public only because of the Athenian attraction within us.

C. Public news that concerning the state and Church. The final category includes news reports that communicate “threatening danger, or some smiling providence” as it relates to the Church or state. There is every reason to be aware of what threatens the health and safety of our country. Genuine worldwide threats should concern us, and especially those in position to provide strength in light of the dangers.

But infatuation with so much inconsequential “news” (#1+2), Hurst argues, led the Athenians to wasting time, neglecting duties, a loss of trade and employment, and bred further false stories of others and provoking contention among those we should be offering peace. Hurst writes, “I could wish there were a redress of all the inconveniences and vices that spring up in coffee houses [the blogosphere of the 17th century]; but I believe that every man who frequents them must mend his own faults herein.” I’m writing this at Starbucks, and as I look around to the tables of conversation I see that this temptation to Athenian rumor milling is just as relevant here as a 17th century coffee house. We should be just as concerned with the news we communicate over coffee, as the commercial news we read, hear, and watch.

Be careful little eyes what you see; Be careful little ears what you hear — for the Father up above is looking down in love….
pdb

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