Posts Tagged ‘in the news’

Why Bad News Sells

IMG_4715
News travels fast in our world these days. And bad news travels fastest of all. And as quickly as we hear the bad news we’re ready to anathematize whoever is responsible!

It’s handy, you know. We can look at the perpetrator of some heinous crime and say how horrible he or she is, advocate for the most strict penalty, and go back to our regularly scheduled lives feeling better about ourselves.

“I would never do that!” we insist, whatever “that” may be.

Another white person unleashes unspeakable harm against a person of color? “We’re past racism in America.” “It’s an isolated incident.” “I have plenty of friends of other races than my own.”

Another celebrity pastor ‘falls from grace’ in an affair? “Those Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites anyway.” “I never trusted a word that preacher said.”

There’s always something about the ‘newsworthy’ cases that makes the villain clearly in another whole category–perhaps having mental problems, maybe less than human, or maybe evil incarnate.

But none of the evil-doing in our world happens in a vacuum.

An act of racial terrorism doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere. Somebody doesn’t just wake up one day and suddenly decide that people of a certain color need to be eliminated. There’s a history in how the person’s ideas about race have been shaped over time in both conscious and unconscious ways.

A marriage doesn’t get broken in a day. Clothes don’t just fall off by surprise, and people don’t just happen to wind up in bed together. There can be any number of vulnerabilities in a person’s life or in a marriage that contribute to the ease with which a partner becomes unfaithful.

In a way, I wish that categories of “good” and “evil” could be so simple as just to say “I’m good and that guy over there who did that heinous thing is evil.”

I mean, I spit-shine my halo every day. Don’t you see how good I am?

But it’s a lie.

The people of our world aren’t so easily divided into good and bad.

You know the country that raised up that racial terrorist? I live there too and so do 315-million or so other people.

The vulnerabilities that contribute to the temptation to look in the wrong places for love? I am not exempt from those. Nobody is.

Any other evil you want to mention? It would be folly for any of us to say we wouldn’t, couldn’t ever even so much as think about it.

But it’s worse than folly. It’s actually counter-productive, potentially destructive even.

If I claimed to be above anything even remotely racist, then I would be absolved from ever taking responsibility to bridge racial divides. If I pretended to be holier than thou with respect to marriage, I would not see the need to take the very concrete steps I do take to protect my marriage.

When we distance ourselves from evil, as if we’re above it, and we anathemetize those we think of as “evil-doers” we give evil greater chance to take root in our hearts and minds.

But looking more squarely at subtler forms of evil and recognizing a downward spiral before it starts can be tremendous opportunities for growth for ourselves, our relationships, and the communities of which we are a part.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just pretend to be good. I want to submit myself to scrutiny so that I can confess what in me is not affirming love and life. It is only in that honesty that I am truly open to becoming more fully loving.

It’s risky to have that kind of honesty–to admit that I’m not all good, that I don’t actually have a halo. But to me it is a far better thing to examine what in me is amiss rather than look to anathematize that guy on the news. Maybe then, I can be part of the solutions for our world rather than contribute to the problems.

It may not make the headline news to live this way. But being in the news is a precarious place anyway.

Editor’s note: This post was previously titled “The Measure by Which We Anathematize”

5 Reasons Being on the Fence is Hard

20130420-185555.jpg

Have you ever been accused of being on the fence on a tough issue? People don’t realize how many of us there are because we’re not the ones making headlines. They also don’t realize being on the fence isn’t easy. Here are five reasons why being on the fence is harder than people think.

1. People Think We’re Just Sitting Here, Not Caring

The people on the extremes of an issue advocate legislation, push the envelope, and get noticed. Since we’re not in the public square making our position clear, they think we’re just sitting here on our fence, not caring about the issue at hand.

They imagine us here, blissfully unaware of the heated debate all around us. They think, because we haven’t chosen one side or the other, we simply don’t care. While that may be true for inconsequential matters, we do care about the big stuff. Its just that the way we care doesn’t look like the way an activist cares.

2. People Don’t Understand the Fence as a Position

People assume just because we haven’t chosen “either/or” we don’t have an opinion. They say we’re undecided. They don’t seem to appreciate that we chose the fence for a reason.

What they don’t realize is that we’re as passionate about the issue as they are. Our decision to take middle ground is often just as intentional as their choice to take a side. We’re not undecided, we have simply chosen a highly nuanced position somewhere in the middle.

3. Sometimes We Agree with Both Sides

Our nuance often comes from the reality that we can see merit on both sides of the issue. We think both camps have valid points and we take a position that embraces the best of both.

It’s hard to talk about the issue with people who want us to pick a side when we agree with them and their opponents. When we nod in agreement on their concerns and also nod with their opposition, they think we’re being disloyal.

4. Other Times We Disagree with Both Sides

On some issues our nuance comes from the conviction that both extremes are just wrong. We hear all the arguments on both sides and neither one seems a suitable option. We don’t pick one or the other because there just isn’t a good choice between them.

We take our perch on the fence because we find balance there, avoiding the muck on both sides. The trouble then is, we’re easy targets on that fence because we’re everyone’s opposition.

5. Some Fences Just Plain Hurt

Oh sure, some fences are sturdy and comfortable, but other fences are rickety or barbed. Being on the fence can be pleasant, but sometimes being on the fence itself is dangerous.

When the moderate position has its own dangers and difficulties, it can be tempting to just choose a side. Sometimes being on the fence hurts like barbed wire but we do it because we’re convinced that’s where we’re supposed to be.

What the Fence Could Be

Maybe if more people understood why being on the fence is so hard, they’d give us a break. Maybe if we could somehow articulate why we take the middle ground, they’d see that we care. And maybe if we could better communicate our nuanced view they might even help us bend back some barbs and join us on the fence.

Do you wish more people would take a nuanced view of controversial topics? Or are you on the fence about that?