I think this is probably a fitting first post for me, as it’s an issue that crops up often in the bustling news world, and provides an even more difficult challenge for Christian journalists, I think. Desensitizing.
In one sense, I’m glad that I’ve developed the ability to “shut off” my emotions when it comes to news. I’m naturally a decently emotional person, but it’s really not reasonable to be a journalist who cries every time she does an interview. And so I’ve learned to turn that side of me off as I listen to stories about famine killing hundreds of thousands, entire nations in uproar, Christians being hunted for their faith, so that I can focus on asking good questions to get the news across effectively. But there’s a point when shutting off that emotional valve can be devastating–not so much to me as to God. As a Christian, I’m called to love everyone, to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions…praying for all the saints.” But when you hear bad news every day, it’s easy to be numb. It’s easy to shout across the office, “Ruth, another bombing in Iraq. 15 Christians dead. Who should we talk to about it?” rather than to simply stop and pray. It’s not just easy, it’s easier. Easier than taking a minute to think about the life lost for the sake of the Gospel, the importance of the Gospel message, the purpose I write this news at all.
I’ve been working at Mission Network News for nearly three years, first as an intern, now as a full time staff member, and have yet to master the fine art of “stopping” in the news room. Lately, I’ve taken to writing down the names of countries, leaders, and even friends on small note cards that I might be reminded to pray for them throughout the day. Funny how we have to make so much effort to remember to pray when these things are before our eyes daily.
And in an effort to place the blame elsewhere and feel slightly better about the fact that I’m so far from perfect, I recognize that we all do this. We all hear news even in our own towns that we say is terrible, but how often do we stop to intercede? I’m reminded of cameraman Jack’s thoughts about the 1990’s genocide in Rwanda in the film Hotel Rwanda, “I think that when people turn on their TVs and see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh my [gosh], that’s horrible,’ and then they’ll go back to eating their dinners.” That line haunts me. What can I be doing to get involved? I can’t give to every organization, but surely I can pray for many of them. How can I become more sensitive even to what’s just “news” to me–someone else’s “reality”–today? How can you?