I get it. The headlines make it look like we have a dire situation in the world out there. ISIS, mass shootings, looting, rioting, bad cops, etc. And I know many Christians who point to those headlines to “prove” that the world is in decline and we are coming to the end of it, judgement is near, all that good stuff. But let’s consider a few things. Do headlines really reflect the state of the world?
I would say no, for a lot of reasons. Let’s start with bad news sells, good news doesn’t. There are crazy moves of God happening all over the world, but we don’t often hear about those things. We don’t hear about people who are just good hearted and do nice things for others. The preponderance of media attention is focused on the examples of bad, crazy people doing crazy things, sensationalist media. And many people would contend that certain media outlets are biased toward a particular point of view. I heartily agree. Media outlets have agendas. And part of their agenda is to paint their opposition in as negative a light as possible, so owning guns causes mass murders and anyone wanting to impose restrictions on gun ownership is secretly plotting to take away our liberties.
We also have to consider the immediacy of media now, that we did not have 10 years ago. As soon as something happens it is broadcast around the world and is transmitted to our phones by way of social media. So not only is the type of news that is generally sent out overwhelmingly negative, but the frequency with which we are receiving this news has increased. This negative frequency also feeds into the minds of people who may be inclined to get their piece of the news pie and act in ways to get that attention, even if it is negative. So in some respects negative news breeds negative news. But it is still headlines, not trend lines.
Also we define “getting worse” by our own personal experiences and not by world trends. We perceive that bad things are happening and we compare those things to what we remember of our youth. Young people show less respect nowadays, don’t work as hard as our generation, we never had to lock our doors, etc. We either ignore world trends or we are ignorant of them and choose to remain so. People make blanket statements like “we are obviously in the end times” and “society is getting worse.” Both statements I have heard recently, but no evidence is provided beyond pointing to headlines.
Consider the world Jesus came into – Roman oppression, widespread crucifixion, leprosy, just to name a few. Or the first few centuries of Christianity when just to bear the name Christian could have meant facing horrible torture and death. We sit in our churches Sunday after Sunday so far removed from the world the first Christians lived in. And there have been many centuries since then that fill our history books full of plagues, wars, genocide, and evil. We have no claim on being the worst generation ever. In fact, we have a lot of claim to being the best, if one takes the time to follow actual trend lines and not headlines. We have improved health, and understand medicine, illnesses, and the role germs play better than we have in previous centuries. We are humane to people and animals and fight against agencies and people who inflict harm. The ability to communicate has expanded phenomenally. Anyone can write a blog or post their thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see. And those thoughts can be transmitted around the globe instantly.
We can’t continue to hide behind headlines and just see them as a “sign of the times.” If our generation is worse than the one before us, then who do we have to blame? We play moral judge and jury, but fail to show the love of Jesus to our world. We can’t just pray for a move of God, we must be a move of God. We can’t allow headlines to become reality.
Written by: Sharon Letson