Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whose News?

Cable television news has changed the way that government and politics works in the US. There is always someone on live television broadcasting the latest "news." No longer are events planned for the daytime hours, Monday through Friday, so that they can be covered on the evening news broadcast. Now every time is news time because all events can be reported on live and in person via satellite.

This has wreaked havoc with the way that the traditional broadcast networks have covered news. There is nothing new to be reported. It was all covered by CNN, Fox, MSNBC or someone else. It has also provided a constant state of transition among those same cable news outlets. They are all trying to create their own niche. They pretend to be filled with integrity and idealism, but in reality they are simply angling for better ratings.

On my satellite television system I get about 10-12 all-news channels (this includes local and business channels). They all have their own specific target.
  • CNN- Tries to be objective in its coverage, but is vilified by right and left as being too partisan in favor of the other guys.
  • MSNBC- Unabashedly liberal in orientation and perspective. Courts the left wing with its programming, reporting and analyses.
  • Fox News- Proclaims itself to be centrist- or at least populist- but is clearly a right leaning outfit.
Each of those networks has a business or financial channel and other outlets. They are all a part of much larger media empires. Apparently, 24 hour news is a great, and profitable, business. The problem is that there is not that much news to cover. In fact, in the last few years more and more non-news stories have become major issues because of this. Every network wants to be first. They want to report the next big story. They are looking for the great ratings. So, we have learned about Casey Anthony, Jaycee Dugard and Octo-mom.

But that is not all. We have lost sight of what is news and what is not. It is now true that many people listen to Talk Radio, or an analysis program on television and assume that they are getting news reporting. In fact, what these programs provide is some one's opinion about what is news, or what we should think about the news.

This came home to me recently when I realized what had happened to the Headline News Network. Headline News is a part of CNN. The idea behind Headline News was that any time of day or night you could get caught up on all the news in 30 minutes. But those days are long past. Now you are more likely to catch an hour of personal financial advice, opinions about the latest tabloid-type scandal or Hollywood gossip.

That is when I realized that the world has changed. Headline News has changed its name. It is now HLN. That does not seem to be a big change, except that HLN markets itself as HLN, News and Views.

Here is my conclusion...

A big part of the divisive, partisan nature of politics in the USA today is because people hear some one's opinion, or analysis of current events, and take it for news. The left sends out its analysts. The right puts its analysts on the air. And before long, no one is listening to news. Everyone is paying attention to analysis. And when we form our opinions based on someone else's opinion, we are standing on a very wobbly foundation. Let's move beyond this partisan period into a time of listening to one another, paying attention to actual news and forming our own opinions.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Family Lists: The Family of God

…that we might receive the adoption as sons.
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Galatians 4.5-6

Here is something to always remember. You are a child of God. He has adopted you and included you in his family. You are no longer a part of the world. You are in a new family with all the rights and privileges that this family enjoys.

  • We are children of the Creator of the universe. I love my Dad. He is the greatest man on earth. But, that is nothing compared to being a child of God. I am a son of God.
  • We are brothers and sisters of Christ himself. Our relationship with the Messiah can be greatly enhanced by understanding that in a very real way, we are connected to him as family.
  • We are brothers and sisters of one another. It seems like a quaint idea from a simpler time to call other church members Brother Smith or Sister Jones. But what a great reminder of our relationships.
  • I have a whole church full of family members. The people that I worship with are advocates for me. They love me. They defend and protect me. They take care of me and my family.

Being a part of that church family comes with responsibilities as well.

  • I must look out for others who are a part of the family. I must work to protect and defend them always.
  • I must help to correct and guide them, but always in a loving and godly way.
  • I must share with those who are a part of the family. That means that I will share material, advice, nurture and prayer.

One more thing: My “family of God” is not limited to the Christian people of my local congregation. I have brothers and sisters around the world. I know some from Africa, from Asia, from Europe. They are everywhere. It is a wonderful, great, huge family. You should appreciate this family and take advantage it. It was Bill Gaither who said, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Even More on New

Recently I have posted a couple of entries on the issue of the "new." (, and Although I have had a lot to say about new and old, tradition and innovation, it seems that there is even more to say.

For example, what I have said previously, and what I am about to say, makes it appear that I am a traditionalist who is committed to the status quo. This is not the case. I like new things. I embrace innovation and creativity. I want to know how things work and how we can make them better. I love new stuff.


The current state of our world would have us look at the new in unhealthy ways. New is exalted as always better. The combination of marketing and technological innovation is extremely dangerous.

  • First of all, an emphasis on, and devotion to all things new will usually lead to sensationalism. We want to see the latest and greatest. To get a look at it we have to know about it. Thankfully (please hear the sarcastic tone of my voice), there are marketers to tell us that there new thing is best. Sensationalism is born.

  • Sensational leads to hyperbole. Over and over again we are subjected to claims that cannot be substantiated. "This will make you happy." "That will give you sex appeal." It is sometimes hard to separate a legitimate claim from some one's opinion.

  • If product X is using a celebrity to sell its product, product Y may need to up the ante by providing a testimonial from a real person. Product Z, which is essentially the same as X and Y, might be tempted to make things up. There is a progression here: New leads to sensationalism. Sensationalism leads to hyperbole. Hyperbole leads to lies.

That new version of Windows will not solve all your problems. Likewise, eating the food at Subway will not make you thin. Whether or not we embrace new things, we need to always be grounded in the truth. Be discerning, wise and skeptical.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Me and Jean

Its a holiday weekend and so I have devoted myself to a couple of my favorite things. I am reading and watching movies. I am having a little trouble on the reading front. It has been hard for me to find anything that really excites me this year. I have been reading Andrew Vachss, but the one I am in right now is hard for me to get into. But I digress.

I have also been watching movies. Last night I watched Les Miserables. The version I saw last night was the one from 1998 starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush. It is a fine production, but by no means the best one available. There is a version with Charles Laughton from 1935. There is one with Claude Rains (I think) that I really like too.

I first met the story of Les Miserables through the Broadway musical version. It is great music, a superb story and just innovative enough to keep it interesting. I have seen stage productions of Les Miserables several times (including one high school production that was surprisingly excellent). There are days that I spend in a blissful fog singing "Who Am I," or "Bring Him Home." The music makes me smile and takes to specific scenes, times, places, emotions. Ahhh...

The novel, written by Victor Hugo, is one of my favorites. There are no weaknesses. Reading this thing allows me to get lost in the pages. I love everything about it.

But the best thing about Les Miserables is Jean Valjean. He is probably my all-time favorite fictional character. Jean is a convict. The story opens with Jean working on a chain gang for 19 years. He has been sentenced hard labor for stealing bread. When paroled, however, he goes on the run. While evading the police Valjean encounters a priest who shows compassion, grace, forgiveness and love. Jean Valjean is transformed.

For the rest of his life Valjean has to hide from the authorities- he is a parole violator after all. But he shows grace and compassion for everyone he meets, including his greatest enemies. His concern and love for others is clearly the theme of the story.

This is not necessarily and Christian novel. The musical is not a religious production. Every filmed version I have seen does not focus on the obvious Christian themes. However, it is impossible to separate Les Miserables from the gospel. It is, in many ways, a parable of the the way the Christian life ought to be lived. Jean Valjean is not Jesus, nor is he intended to be. But those who read or view Les Miserables honestly will see Jesus in Valjean as surely as they will in Aslan. Do not miss Les Miserables, in whatever form you can find it.