For some, 9.11 seemed too horrific to be real. Many people commented that it seemed like they were watching a movie when they saw the towers fall. In the same way, reading about the hundreds of millions of people affected by the AIDS crisis in Africa can seem surreal. But stories aren’t just stories. They’re people.
That’s why keeping up with the outside world is important. Because of people.
But how can we make sense of all the incredible amounts of information available in the news? How does this information benefit you?
In preparation for understanding news stories, practice understanding different points of view. Understanding various views helps make sense of the news. Even in my personal life, knowing about other views helps me be more deliberate in my life choices. It shows me a wider definition of success, gives me more advice for a happy life, provides examples of sacrificing and joyful Christians, and different proverbs, too, like these:
“You can sleep when you’re dead.”
“He who hurries is already dead.”
Big difference, eh?
The proverbs represent two very different cultures. How are they different? What are the benefits of each lifestyle that the proverbs promote and represent? These cultural differences cause and influence the events and issues that we read about on the news.
We can train our minds to see the good and bad in each perspective.
Knowing about world events can also help put local issues into perspective. I find that, instead of making me desensitized, reading about events in other countries helps me understand local happenings. I think I’m more objective when I’m reading about people I don’t know. Then when something similar happens in my own school or town, I’ve already thought about the situation and am better prepared to understand and respond.
A news story for one person is a hometown event for another. Some of you may recall reading about the suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco this spring. This famously peaceful country was shocked by the attacks. Because I was living there, I saw the stories behind the story: colleagues whose families were killed, the many whodunit theories, and the local response. Every news story has such background.
Start slow. When you read about an event, try to get a feel for the broader background. Before you go to the next article, stop for a minute and ask: “how would this event affect everyday life there? How would I respond if I lived there? How can communities respond to this event?”
Here’s a practical way to get started. Focus on one event, region, etc – don’t try to understand or even be aware of all the world events.
You could choose to investigate a social justice issue: education, race relations, sports organizations, AIDS, religious freedom, animal treatment. Pick anything.
Or choose a region, country, or city. A personal connection can help, too. If you know someone living in Peru, scour the Web for information about the country.
Try to make sense of the news by seeing it from a biblical viewpoint. When Proverbs says “Don’t envy the wicked,” can you see why after reading news about Enron? Who do you see in the news that fall into the category of “poor in Spirit”?
WHERE IN THE WORLD
Let me throw in another tip. Sometimes, knowing world geography helps me understand the news. I know, I’m a dork, but wait, give it a chance. When I hear about Burma on the news and wonder “Hmm … is that in South America?” I don’t have a good context for the event. (It’s right below China.)
So, dorks of the world unite! Have geography night with your friends after you see The Hulk. Pop open some IBC and pull out a … map! Being familiar with countries’ locations makes news blurbs click in my mind and it could even work for a non-dork like you, too.
Okay, let’s see how you’re doing.
Quiz question: What would be the best option of clothing at noon in the middle of the desert?
a) a long robe
c) shorts and a t-shirt
It’s your turn. Look it up on the Web. Look for pictures of people in the desert. When you find the answer (a), stop for a minute. Why is this the most practical? Who thought of this? Is that what you would have guessed? Hey, I think you’re hooked!
Knowing about world events can affect our perspectives and everyday life. Awareness of religious persecution around the world can make us thankful for our religious freedom. Reading about strong community ties in India can encourage us to take cookies to our neighbor.
It also makes us more compassionate and informed.
“It’s easy to be blind to people’s suffering if you don’t know what’s going on around you,” said one friend of mine. “And as Christians, we’re obligated to have compassion on people – not just those around us but those around the world.”
In response, let’s get beyond the average income and percentage of paved roads in other countries. Make an effort to learn about and understand the people who are affected by “stories.” Let’s not see poor countries as “undeveloped.” Let’s come alongside them and pray.