My Facebook news feed a week ago included no less than five links to articles with roughly the same headline: “ISIS Is Beheading Children.” Like a stab to the heart—barbarians! Who do they say their god is—Molech? The links went to several sources, like AllenWest.com, Catholic.org, Chicks on the Right—but no major news services. A thought stirred in my brain that perhaps the child-beheading stories were exaggerated, and as it turns out, maybe they are. I do hope so—that’s one horror the world can do without. But with beheadings and coups and mass murder and kidnappings and a deadly virus breakout, there’s still plenty to go around.
“Don’t go wobbly, George,” Margaret Thatcher told the first President Bush on the eve of the first Gulf War. What I tell myself is similar: Don’t go numb. I feel exhausted, and immediately ashamed, especially when I see articles like this: “What All This Bad News Is Doing to Us.” Doing to us? What about those who are being harried, slaughtered, attacked and infected? Are we Americans so self-absorbed that we can’t gaze long at disaster overseas before nervously feeling our forehead and checking our pulse?
The article offers hints about staying sane in a world that really isn’t as bad as it seems. Your distress may be due to the way you lean politically:
“We already know from political-psychological research that the more threatened people feel, they more likely they are to support right-wing policies. And people who believe in unmitigated evil appear more likely to support torture and other violent practices.”
Oh, that explains it—or actually, no, it doesn’t explain anything. Stick a microphone in front of a Christian in Syria and ask if he believes in unmitigated evil. Chances are he’d say, yes, and might even suggest some “violent practice” to resolve the situation, but not necessarily because he’s a right-winger. Believe it or not, what happens in the world is not all about us and our politics.
OK, I got that, but what am I to do when I’m separated from the suffering world by two oceans? Within a few days of the beheading links, Facebook was consumed with Robin Williams’ suicide. Bad news marches on in a series of lightning-quick images that startle us only briefly before the next one comes along. It takes effort to focus, but focus we must:
“… as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10, ESV).
Our hyper-connected world can swamp us if we let it, or inform us if we use it. Thanks to the internet, we know where the household of faith is besieged, and we know that persecution grows the church. But not persecution alone. A pastor once told me, “God builds his church with the prayers of the saints.” (See Acts 4:29-31.) As the world falls apart, the Lord is building. Unbelievable as it seems, we can shape the bricks.