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May 10, 2021 11:38 am
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs sits down with Dr. Jeffrey Bilbro to discuss his new book on how to read and understand the news with a theological framework.
Family policy matters and engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that she will flow better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters Tracy to Yvette Griggs thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters. As Christians we know that we are to be in the world but not of the world from us. That can mean striking a balance and how we consume and react to the news.
I think many of us would be embarrassed especially as news junkies.
If we compare our time spent daily reading news versus reading the Bible with today's guest argues that to have a better understanding of what the news is and how to consume it well. We need a theological framework, Dr. Jeffrey Bill Brown is the editor-in-chief of front porch Republic, associate professor of English at Grove city College and author of a new book entitled reading the times the literary and theological inquiry into the news, Dr. Jeffrey Bilbray. Welcome to family policy matters very much so are we to understand that the Bible actually has something to say about reading daily news that my contention that you know the Bible is about eternal things and the good news, but it also a lot to say about contemporary events and how we should have about tension between the eternal and unchanging. On the one hand, and what's happening in our day-to-day lives in our society at large. Some specific principles that you draw theologically or you can to get into that a little bit later. They are there some things that you can pinpoint for us to start off with sure one of the examples that I talk about in the book is the example of the Old Testament prophet who speak to particular social and political and economic problems of their day.
They concern the geopolitical affairs of the moment but they don't explain how we should think about the event in terms of sociological analysis or poles of likely voters are simply about the kinds of things that many contemporary commentators rely on they go back to God's revelation of himself in Scripture and they seek to apply what they know of God in his unchanging character to these particular historical events in the particular issues of the day that reviewers of your new book, when we consume news we are not only being informed, but also formed.
So is there a way to consume news in a more informative way. Rather than being formed by do you think a great question. I guess I would say ultimately not entirely. Ultimately, we are to be formed and so the question is, how and by whom, and ideally would then be more deliberate about where we are being informed and who return to for the information and try to be informed by the kinds of people whom we also want to be formed by so Princeton is not healthy to read news and learn how to think about the events of the day from people Christian people who you turn to for a biblical perspective as a war but is also helpful to listen to people who you might not agree with theologically or politically, but whose mode of thinking and engagement respect. So even if you are reading in our story or are an opinion piece by someone whom you might also ultimately disagree with. Hopefully you are still being formed in rigorous thinking and and lows of charitable dialogue that you would want to adopt yourself because we might read some article or news op-ed from someone whose theology we agree with but whose disposition and tone is perhaps not great and that can make us angry people or outraged people or fearful people and so I think that the tone and the mode of engagement is as important as the ultimate conclusion of the news that we engage with the tricky because often times when we are exposed to counter views or counter evidence it in this kind of agonistic media environment where we are sort of hate reading the opposition in order to prove why they're wrong and I think that not a great context for actually thoughtful engagement or from learning from people would disagree with self. Ideally, you know, we would find trusted friends or are trusted voices in the media whom we respect even if we disagree with ultimately and then we might be more prone to really listen to them and engage with them and at least walk away. Think about I now have new things at the consider that I can just dismiss our in just argue away so dear believes that it is absolutely necessary for Christians to stay abreast of the news is an art duty as citizens and as Christians to help us understand the culture that we live in. Her questions regarding in part because in some ways we never ask that question so often we kind of assume that we have a duty to be informed and I hear your people apologize if they're not up-to-date on the latest scandal or tragedy, or news, but I think we might not have a duty to be informed about everything the limited creatures. We can't know everything about everything and that's okay that the duty we have.
I think as Christians is to love God and love our neighbor and certainly weren't have to know some things about her neighbor and the world in which he or she live if we're gonna love them well. So yeah, I think freeing ourselves from the impossible duty of knowing everything in an up-to-date on everything, might give us the space that we need to take action toward lobbying and working predictably with the people whom we can help. So II don't want to say that we should her head in the sand and ignore what going on but I think today the more likely problem is on the other side where we know too much and do too little screen point something consider the proper historical nature and purpose of the news and why is that important for where we are in history right now yeah thought I'd talk a little bit in the book about not just recent digital media revolution and how that change the news landscape but also how is the way that just amplifies what's been going on for a long time River since 19 century with the introduction of the telegraph in photography and steam power printing press and cheap paper so that information overload and the tendency to have a difficult time, 15 through what is important to know about because we have so much we can know about the problem for a while with a couple hundred years and is only getting worse. I guess so.
I think recognize not important and hopefully that helps us see how the news today is not just about informing us but it also become a awaited people make money through entertainment or through signaling their particular partisan political identity. So there's a lot of a lot of things that Mollify our go under the banner of news that I just about current events, but the whole social fabric and recognize that hopefully helps us be more deliberate about which parts we engage with spare and and read about which parts with no new that I can. I can safely opt out of the park. So, in your book you go a long list of great thinkers like Cerrado Dante Martin Frederick Douglass Dorothy Day and offering an alternate vision of the rhythms of life. I guess this is what you're talking about that focuses more on timeless things, talk a little bit about that here on some ways that's kind of what I was saying earlier regarding the biblical prophets. But maybe my favorite biblical image of what what I think distinguishes those people that I point to a model in this regard comes from Psalm one and this image of the blessed man as a rooted tree where this person is rooted in the word of God and in the eternal truth conveyed an outward and then that the person becomes this portion healthy tree that bears fruit for the good of its neighbors. So sometimes we think that we have to know what's going on the world around us. In order to engage in and participate well and utterly true to some extent, but perhaps the redemptive quality of our engagement with contemporary affairs is proportionate to the roots that we have put down in the eternal truths of God so that if a really steeped in the word of God and that's the kind of center of our identity and our mental perspective then will be able to actually give our neighbors the resources they need to navigate the particular events that we find ourselves in together. See highlight in particular Frederick Douglass's journey. Learning to read through being a leader of the abolitionist movement here in America is an example of building community through media consumption so white that you choose to highlight his story.
I like Douglass for lotteries in Vegas in part because in current debacle of the different time in different media landscape. But today there's a lot of people who have remarkable life stories like Douglass did, and they seek ways to kind of leverage that your personal celebrity and I want to be a thought leader with the platform and I was heaving on the lecture circuit and he certainly was a celebrity. I think he was perhaps the most photographed American 19th century, but you devoted much of his energy to the kind of daily difficult work of running a newspaper and building a community of readers and writers who were committed not to celebrity or for flash in the pan activism but to to building a community of people who are committed to writing a whole set of social wrongs and that is very clear about his Christian commitment and his the fact that his vision of justice flowed from the Bible and the prophets, in particular, as I think it is one good example of somebody who tried to build a community of people who were committed to engage in a particular social issue of their day in that case, slavery and racial inequity racial injustice at and they did so from the perspective rooted in the word of God is community and the opportunity to build communities through news and I'll assume through social media is one of the good things that you can say about news. How can we be a part of the good part of engaging in news as individual a couple things I just wanted just to be cognizant of the fact that though we often consume new that individuals is a very social activity, and so trying to find people. Ideally in real life, the church or in our neighborhoods or work your deluded we can talk about issues with and consider other perspective but having. There are also examples of good online communities where people often times that they are formed around particular concerns like like for the goddesses was around the issue of race, racial justice or slavery was a lot of her small pockets online of people to be private Facebook group or a threaded discussion where it's not like a free-for-all where you're just trying to own the other side of the political spectrum of words, people, habits are shared set of common principles and common concerns are trying to figure out what that means for particular issue that that is pressing today so I think if you can find of group of people to weigh and discern, and respond charitably. The events of the day and you're more likely to do so well and recognize that we maybe aren't good at sifting through a lot of information and making the choices about it as individuals. Do you think that this is one of the best ways finding a few communities that are discussing the issues that you find to be most important in a way that you think is is helpful as an individual is one of the best ways to curtail this chaos that you mentioned earlier, this kind of emotional whiplash that you that you spoke of when we watch news and read it. Yeah, I think the regulator is just one person finding a community of people that that we trust and that we build relationships with over time, even if they are unfortunately only digital that can really help. Thank you very much you been listening to a conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Bill Burrell, author of the new book reading the Times literary and theological inquiry into the news. Dr. Bilbo, thank you so much for being with us today and family policy matters.
You been listening to family policy matters. We hope you enjoy the program and plenitude in again next week to listen to the show online insulin more about NC families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across from Carolina good or website it NC family.award that's in C family.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family