Reading the News by the Light of the Good News

This book is under contract with IVP.

Too often, the light of the news media competes with the divine light instead of serving it. While the Washington Post claims that “democracy dies in darkness,” much foolishness also dies when the media’s bright lights turn off. But acknowledging the vapid nature of most news today doesn’t mean that Christians should simply ignore contemporary events. Instead, we can discern a long tradition—stretching from the Old Testament prophets to Jesus to the church fathers to many saintly contemplatives and social advocates—that models a way of responding wisely to current affairs. Framing the importance of the news in terms of democracy may not offer sufficient guidance—after all, how much do we really need to know in order to fill out a ballot every year or two? But as Christians, our citizenship in heaven and God’s call to love our neighbor have far-reaching implications for how we should attend to the news. What do we need to know to love our neighbors well? Or, to frame the question differently, to what do we need to attend in order to live faithfully in this place and in this time? These are the questions the gospel calls us to answer, and they are much more compelling and difficult questions than asking simply what we need to know to be informed voters.

To answer them, we need a practical theology of the news. In this book, I consider how a Christian account of attention, time, and community might guide us toward this theology. Each of the three sections addresses a more particular question: To what should we attend? How should we inhabit time? How should we belong to one another? In responding to these questions, each section follows a similar arc: the initial chapter considers how our contemporary media ecosystem offers inadequate answers to these questions, the second chapter proposes a theological answer (and includes examples of Christians who embodied this answer), and the final chapter identifies two specific practices by which we might cultivate a healthier posture toward the news.