Yes, I’ve had a relapse. A relapse in a lifelong addiction. Sometimes I have been able to get away from it for a while. Now and then when I take a retreat I can go for several days without it. But since last week’s attack on the Capitol, I have felt compelled to listen to more news broadcasts, read online reports, and even search for details, like finding out what the pastor in Alexandria, Minnesota said on his Youtube video, calling for his people to get “armed up” to defend our way of life. Yes, I have had an addiction to the news.
When I was in college, I would buy big Sunday newspapers and read them from front to back. I subscribed to The New Republic, back then a weekly journal of political and cultural critique. I wanted to know everything about science, politics, and social changes. I wanted to be well informed. I was hungry to know all about it.
Later in my adult life there was a time when neither a poorly timed supper, nor the presence of visitors, nothing would keep me from the 6:30 evening TV news broadcasts. Eventually I noticed that it was distorting my life and I needed to stop. So I gave up the evening news for Lent that year. It helped to cleanse my spirit. And I’ve lived a little less attached to news outlets most of the time since. But now! What’s going to happen next? CNN and other competing networks keep telling me the same stories over and over, with the tiniest new insights or an interview with someone who was there, or someone who knows what is likely to happen.
Since the insurrection, I have had increased anxiety, a sort of alertness to danger, a feeling that I need to be vigilant. I suspect many of our fellow citizens have felt the same. Now and then I get an email, a text message or Messenger note from an acquaintance who has the “inside information” about what really is wrong. Some of them are repeating the same old misinformation, or new bits and pieces of nasty stuff that may or may not be true. But lots of people are “saying it.”
What am I to do? If I read enough editorials or columns from across the country, maybe I will know the full truth, and I have tried that. But I still don’t know. In fact, none of us can know. I am trying to get used to not knowing if our stability and security is going to continue as it has in the past. So I have come to three conclusions, and I hope they may help you, my reader, as much as they have helped to settle my mind.
First, if there is an armed attack, as many right-wingers have called for, or any serious effort to disrupt our governmental affairs in any state capital, or in Washington, I am confident that our police and military will make short work of suppressing those attackers.
Second, if an attack is fended off effectively, or even if nothing happens, this will not be the end of chaos and complaints, continued mistrust by those who believe the “election was stolen” or those convinced that our Christian values are being threatened. There will continue to be quite a bit of noise. And in this crazy time, it is all the more important for me, and I hope you, to be committed to loving our neighbors, both those neighbors we like, and even the neighbors who are upset or disruptive, or voicing strange ideas. That is the only way to help heal wounds.
Third, I know I cannot do that very well, by myself. So at this time, I need to remind myself who I am, and to whom I belong. I am a follower of Jesus, and it is to him that I belong. I am first a Christian, and secondly, I am an American. So I am committed to his way of living, and loving my neighbor, even if I fulfill that calling poorly at times. No matter what happens, I am secure in who I am and what I am all about. That is more important than any bad news.
So, for now, I am trying not to hang on the words of every newscaster or commentator. I am hoping that sanity and peace will prevail. And if nothing awful happens in the next few days, it will still be good to go on loving our neighbors, to help change the world.
A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.
Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)
© 2021 Stanley Hagemeyer