I was not one of the twenty-eight million people who watched Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Here’s been my problem in the days after the interview aired Sunday night: there were actually multiple interviews, or so it would seem.
One version sees Meghan as a brave woman willing to fight for her marriage, her mental health, and her children against the prejudice and opposition of some in the royal family. Another version sees her as a vindictive outsider who did not get what she wanted and is trying to “take down” the royal family.
Some view Harry as the oppressed son of a distant father, but others view him as a troublemaking rebel seeking attention in all the wrong ways. Some viewers saw the couple as courageous trailblazers making a new way forward for royalty in the twenty-first century. But others saw them as capitalizing on Harry’s inherited platform and fortune.
It all depends on which reports you believe.
We can do this with nearly any story in the news.
- Is the growing immigration problem on our southern border the fault of the former administration, the present administration, neither, or both?
- Will President Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan make things better or worse for Americans?
- Should Governors Cuomo and/or Newsom be impeached?
- Did Dak Prescott win his contract battle with the Dallas Cowboys, or did the team?
Depending on the network you watch or the social media you consume, all are options.
My purpose is not to berate the media for its bias. Rather, it is to explain why we are where we are and to offer three biblical ways to find the truth we need in the chaos we face.
Who was “the most trusted man in America”?
Columnist Jonah Goldberg notes that well into the nineteenth century, “people—particularly non-affluent, non-city-dwelling folk—got their news monthly or even seasonally. And the interval has been shrinking ever since. Even taking into account radio, TV, and cable news, most people in the pre-internet age got their fill of journalism in the morning and then got a brief update at the end of the day with the nightly news, or maybe the evening edition of a newspaper.”
I am old enough to remember those days well. The morning paper brought the morning’s news. The evening paper (if there was one) brought the evening news. More likely, people watched the network news for thirty minutes (usually at 5:30 p.m. CT; I grew up in Texas) and then the local news for thirty minutes (usually at 6:00 p.m.). If they really cared about what was going on, they might stay up for the 10:00 p.m. local news as well.
We had three networks and thus three news options. Walter Cronkite at CBS was our favorite, known as the “most trusted man in America” because of his objectivity. “And that’s the way it is” was his nightly sign-off. We believed him.
Then came the internet.
Now most of us get our breaking news via Twitter, Facebook, other social media, or notifications from news outlets. By the time we get around to reading, watching, or listening to the news, we mostly know what has happened. But news stations have to fill column inches, screens, and air time in order to sell ads and otherwise make a profit. Many are now doing so 24/7/365.
As a result, “news” is more opinion on the news than reporting of it. Many news programs are more entertainment than information. Analytics drive ads which drive profits, and digital media are more sophisticated than ever in tracking them. They know the time we spend on an article on our computers, our viewing habits on television, our listening habits on radio, and all the other ways we consume their content. They tailor what we see/hear/read to our preferences so they can get us to consume more content, see/hear/respond to more ads, and thus make them more profits.
We can like this, hate it, or ignore it, but it’s the way it is and the way it will be for the foreseeable future.
Three biblical responses
What does any of this have to do with my mission as a cultural apologist to equip evangelical Christians to respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues we face? How does today’s article relate in practical ways to you? Let’s consider three biblical imperatives for our day.
One: Practice biblical discernment.
God’s word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” as much today as when it was first inspired (Psalm 119:105). This is because neither human nor divine nature change. What was true is still true. Thus, we need to view everything we experience through the prism of biblical revelation. Look for what God says about the issues you face, for that’s the truth you need.
Two: Seek the constant guidance of the Spirit.
Jesus promised that the Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). He has a word for us for every moment and circumstance of our lives. Not just the “spiritual,” but the “secular.” Not just for Sunday, but for Monday. Ask him to show you the truth you need and know that he will always lead those who will follow.
Three: Aspire to be redemptive rather than reactive.
The God who “sent redemption to his people” (Psalm 111:9) is constantly at work redeeming the bad for good and the present for eternity. Look for ways to respond rather than react to the events of our world, seeking ways to lead people to Jesus and his transforming grace (John 3:30).
“No regrets. Pure joy.”
Luis Palau is one of the most joyful, winsome Christians I have ever met. I have been privileged to work with him in a variety of contexts and have always found him a model of Spirit-led discernment and redemptive grace.
These days, the world-renowned evangelist is battling lung cancer. Shortly after the announcement that he had been placed in hospice care, his son Andrew left his side to lead a major evangelistic event in Florida.
This might seem uncaring, except that the son was doing precisely what his eighty-six-year-old father asked him to do: “Go, Andrew. We’ve said all we need to say. No regrets. Pure joy. Now don’t let me get in the way of you preaching the Good News!”
If Luis had gone to heaven while Andrew was showing others how they can go to heaven, nothing would have made him happier. That’s because, as he told his son, he has “no regrets.”
Can you say the same? If not, why not?