Thinking about the news

When I first saw a weblog or two (before the word “blog” entered our society’s vocabulary), they didn’t interest me. True to the term “log,” they appeared much like diaries – brief accounts of what someone had done or thought about during the day. Unless you knew the person or were very familiar with his fields of interest, they were either hard to follow or boring (or both).

The WORLD Magazine announced they were started a blog (they defined the word first, for readers unfamiliar with it). They pointed out the important role bloggers had played in “Rathergate” and expressed a hope that Christian bloggers could have a significant impact as they discussed the news from a Christian perspective. I liked that idea, and started checking in often at worldmagblog.

It’s been very interesting, sometimes encouraging, sometimes frustrating (there are people who seem intent on misunderstanding what others say), and it has certainly increased my awareness of what’s in the news. But I’m not sure how far it actually gets in fostering serious discussion of the news from a Christian perspective.

Certainly it leads to lots of discussions of issues which are in the news. But there are certain hot topics that can be counted on to get a heated argument going (as there is hardly one “Christian” perspective on many issues – though some who comment there seem to be certain that theirs is the correct one), whether it was the central point of the news story or not – sometimes even if it wasn’t mentioned in the story, but only by another comment on the blog.

For instance, I’ve been following today’s thread on Hoopla over “Aunt Ida” with definite interest, adding a few comments of my own. But after the first few comments, most of the discussion has been about evolution in general, and how it can or cannot be reconciled with a proper understanding of Scripture, rather than about the news story itself. I’m not sure how much that’s because it’s easier to discuss the issue than the news story, and how much because most of us who comment on it have little if any expertise on the subject.

Being one of those with relatively scanty knowledge of the subject (though I am trying to learn more, as time permits and I find worthwhile books addressing it from either side), I’m not going to try to get into a Christian perspective on the discovery of this particular fossil. But I did think I should try to pick a news story I had read recently and see what I could do in terms of a “Christian perspective on the news.”

Yesterday I read an article in the Wall Street Journal, “At Estates of the Fabulously Rich, Gilded Era Is Going, Going, Gone.” A beachfront home worth several million dollars, sports cars, exotic hunting trophies, rare parrots – all went on the auction block as the Peacocks attempted to simplify their life and pay off their debt. Bargain-hunters took some of the smaller items (a total of $300,000 in sales), but the Peacocks still have their cars and their mansion (and their parrots).

I can’t help but feel a distinct lack of sympathy for their plight. The son of a friend of mine lost his job, and now he is losing his house. I know there are a lot of other people in town in similar financial straits. As the downsizing continues as our corporation (it was the largest employer in town, I don’t know whether it still is), none of us knows whether we might be next.

But I started trying to ask myself, what is the Christian perspective on this story? Am I right to feel a lack of sympathy for people who evidently put themselves first during a decade of spending on luxuries? How different from them am I, in my own financial struggles, compared to a family literally struggling to stay alive in some third world country? I have food in the cupboards and in the freezer, and – while I would hate to do it – I could keep buying groceries for quite some time using credit cards.

The Bible has a lot to say about the right and wrong use of money, and about greed, and about contentment. I should probably rejoice that the Peacocks have recognized the pointlessness of their absurd accumulation of stuff and their desire to get rid of it, even at a loss. What “stuff” around our house could we easily part with, if we really had God’s perspective on what is important in life? (Frankly I’d be happy to sell a fair amount of it if I thought the cost of selling it wouldn’t be close to the price it would sell for. I notice that 2/3 of what the Peacocks made in the estate sale went to cover the expenses of the sale.)

What about debt? I started adult life with no debt, but then my first car broke down and I had to get another one, which required a loan as I had no savings. Then it needed tires. I bought a new mattress and box springs, using a credit card, hoping it would help me sleep better. After I married we bought a house – lots of debt – and furniture for it. Oh, and we still had student loans to pay off. Debt became a habit.

In my classes on accounting and business administration, debt was presented not as something to avoid but simply a tool to use wisely. I can’t say our use of it has always been wise, but I was surprised, when we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course a couple years ago, to hear debt denounced as bad, contrary to the teaching of Scripture. I wish now – as no doubt the Peacocks do – that I had kept to my early debt-avoidance.

So what does the Bible say about dealing with the consequence of past mistakes? From beginning to end, the Bible is full of examples of people having to deal with those consequences. God offers forgiveness of sins, but doesn’t generally extricate people from the situations they have gotten themselves into (sometimes He apparently introduces some of the consequences Himself, such as sending a plague). Peter speaks of it being praiseworthy to bear up under the pain of unjust suffering, but asks (rhetorically) what credit is it to endure suffering that is deserved?

If you’re wondering where I’m going with all this, I don’t know. I’m brainstorming ideas about how to think “Christianly” about this news story. Feel free to add any thoughts you have.

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One Response to Thinking about the news

  1. tammie says:

    🙂 good thoughts. i have more of an aversion to debt than to poverty, so i would rather do without than have a payment schedule. that doesn’t seem particularly virtuous to me, but it does lighten my load.

    my husband overrode me, and we went into debt for a home (an small fixer-upper), which turned out to be an excellent business decision.

    so, like you, i don’t know where i’m going with this, but evaluation and prayerful consideration are good.

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