Pastor’s Friday Comments (05.22.20)

Americans tend to consume indiscriminately. We’re not all that particular about what we eat, but just as critically, we don’t pay much attention to what we consume with our minds either.

We leave the television on for background noise, even when we aren’t interested in what is on. We scroll mindlessly through social media, looking at the pictures of the pets of people we haven’t seen since high school. We look up something important(ish) through a search engine, but then fall down the rabbit hole of click bait, becoming more familiar with the lives of celebrities than we are with what our children learned in (virtual) school today.

Have you ever considered how much of the information we consume relates to things over which we have no control? It might be interesting to know some random fact, but you can’t do anything about it, and, even if you could, it wouldn’t make your own life any better.

There are a couple of areas that, now and in the near future, could consume a lot of our time in an indiscriminate manner, but over which we have little or no control.

One of those areas is information about the current pandemic. There are certain, fairly obvious things that you need to know. How do I protect myself? How can I protect others? What activities might put me at risk? What are the current recommendations from health professionals about my conduct? The answers to each of those questions deals with something you can control. And they can be gained from watching about an hour of local and national news a day.

However, living with a constant bombardment of information about individual tragedies, global responses, quack cures, government pronouncements unhinged from reality, footage of lockdown protests, and statistics from places far removed from where you live do not fall under the category of things we can control. And, as has been reported by almost every news outlet, the constant bombardment of bad news can lead to anxiety and depression.

The other area over which we have some control, but not much, has to do with the impending election season. You can control for whom you vote. But the campaign season that has only just begun is likely to be the most vile, hate-filled, truth-averse, attack-centered election cycle that this country has seen in the last hundred years. And that’s saying something. And there isn’t much you can do about it.

If you don’t know for whom you are going to vote already (and in the presidential race I have a feeling that isn’t very many people), you can always go to the candidate’s website to get positions, if not substantive answers. But that doesn’t mean you have to listen to the attack ads or answer their surveys, or pick up the phone for the robocall. By refusing to listen, you may not cause anyone to tone down the rhetoric, but it doesn’t have to bring you down either.

When I was growing up in a very Southern Baptist home, my parents had us turn down the volume on the television every time a commercial aired for an alcoholic beverage. (They mellowed a little in their position on alcohol later in life, but not much.) It was their way of saying that the pitch for consumption wasn’t worth our time. I’m suggesting that we “turn down the volume” on our consumption of information by doing all we can to limit our exposure to things over which we have no control.

Besides lowering our blood pressure a little bit, it could leave time for other, more worthy pursuits. As a minister of the Gospel, you already know some of the suggestions I would make, but, even if you don’t up your spiritual game a bit, you can surely find better ways to spend your time.