Last week, we read an interesting article on The Gospel Coalition website called, “The Danger of Being Driven By Distant Drama.” We’ll link the article below if you want to read the whole thing, but as we are prone to do, we want to distill it down to the couple ideas that we found thought provoking. So, here are a couple excerpts with a couple of our own thoughts interspersed…
The author is concerned with how our ability and sometimes unconscious practice of following the news all around the world can draw us into a distant reality. In this distant reality, there is an unhelpful pattern where we can do nothing and it can distract us from our local lives where we can be very involved. Here is an excerpt where the author lays this out and quotes from a book he refers to a few times:
Perhaps we should inscribe a warning across the bottom of the screens on which we read the news: “Objects on screen are more distant than they appear.”
Bilbro believes this obsession with the news (especially news from far away) is morally de-formative. It keeps us from feeling rightly and acting responsibly. Flooded with information to which we lack any ability to respond in a meaningful way, we get “caught up in distant dramas.” Our news intake can keep us from the good life of love and good deeds.
The danger isn’t in receiving news from around the world, but in devoting so much attention to world news that we neglect the people closest to us. We know what’s going on in the world more than what’s happening in our own community. We know what’s happening in “the Church” worldwide more than what’s happening in our own congregation.
Then, here is something we found quite thought provoking as the author brings it to a point for our own lives and made us think about how it might apply to our outreach and evangelism as individuals and families:
This “telescopic” vision changes us and cheats our neighbors, because it’s almost always here at home, among the people closest to us, where we could have the most impact. Devoting so much time to what’s happening way out there instead of right around the corner shifts our sensibilities and steals from our neighbors the good deeds we might have done on their behalf. Our powerlessness to respond meaningfully to news across the world gets translated into similar sensibilities regarding problems nearby: we receive news but don’t believe there’s much we can do in response. The result? Bilbro writes:
When our experience of the world is filtered through the news media, the tragedies that play out on our screens can seem more pressing than the ones that happen closer to home. In this condition, we risk being like the priest and the Levite, who passed by the wounded man on the side of the road, rather than the Samaritan, who saw, had compassion for, and took action to help his neighbor.
Imagine Jesus’ parable retold today, except that the priest sidesteps the wounded man on the road because he’s scrolling through images of people in a war-torn country on the other side of the world.
The final thing we will share is this pointed conclusion that hits home:
As a guest on a podcast recently, I was asked what message I’d put on a billboard—what one thing I’d want to communicate to church leaders today. After giving the question some thought, I answered, “Look local.”
Feel free to read the whole article here if you like: “Distant Drama”, but the above excerpts draw our focus to our outreach and our neighbors and some questions to think about:
1) How much do I know about my neighbors and my community compared to what I know about world events?
2) If I were to take “Look local” more to heart, what would that look like and how would I implement that?
3) How can I balance my use and maybe desire for a stream of information—news, social media, etc. with a desire to know my neighbors and my community? Even better how can my desire for information and news fuel my attempt to “Look local?” Are there social media feeds or websites that would let me learn more about my community? Are there “less popular” feeds and sites that would fix my attention to my neighbors and my neighborhood?