Thursday, January 2, 2014

Media as a Mirror of Faith

Incoming MDiv student Angela Nevitt Roesler reflects on being mindful in a world of information:

When it comes to recognizing how our faith affects our daily lives (our choices and our behaviors), S. Joan Chittister makes a wonderfully powerful and concise observation in her book, In Search of Belief:
“Until I discover the God in which I believe, I will never understand another thing about my own life.  If my God is harsh judge, I will live in unquenchable guilt.  If my God is Holy Nothingness, I will live a life of cosmic loneliness.  If my God is taunt and bully, I will live my life impaled on the pin of a grinning giant.  If my God is life and hope, I will live my life in fullness overflowing forever.”
I have been thinking about this particular statement lately, and about the indicators around me that can help me see what kind of God I’m allowing to manifest in my life.  Since the information we ingest on a daily basis has such a huge impact on the way we understand and interact with the world around us (including our God!), I wonder if we can assess it as a spiritual checkpoint, or mirror?  
What do our patterns of media consumption say about our relationship with God?  Who is the God we seek to animate in our lives via the media we choose to feed our minds?  Is it a God of life and hope, leading us to fullness in our own lives?

After all, the age-old adage goes, we are what we eat… and as it would seem, we consume more media/ideas than food!  (Interesting statistics here.)
These questions remind me a lot of the Cherokee Legend of the two wolves where a grandfather teaches his grandson how to know whether "good or evil" will win over the struggles of one's inner life.  In the end, the spirit that wins is the one that we feed... If we apply that same analogy to the case of media consumption, we know that what we seek will begin seeking to connect with us in return thanks to evolving marketing tools.  What a striking and specific example to be mindful of what we attract!

On a broad scale, TV and radio adjust content to majority ratings – so you may not personally see more of what you like if you aren’t in the majority, but what is playing is always indicative and ever adjusting to social trends and desires.
The Internet, on the other hand, works via its intelligent search and social media engines to give us each more of what we individually want (and less of what we ignore) – without us ever having to think about it.  That being the case, we can easily find ourselves in a “small world” of our own design where our exposures are more or less limited by our likes, subscriptions, and “follows.”  How important to recognize the world we are creating for ourselves – and that we are significantly empowered to influence and improve the quality of our environment.
So, back to my original question, if we take time to assess our online interactions and news, what can we learn about our relationship with God?  What do our followings, interactions, and activities reveal to us about our beliefs?  Are they harsh and critical?  Taunt and bully?  Filled with life and hope?  Does the reality of the picture they paint jive with the God of our hearts?  If not, what new "seeking" (liking/following/ subscribing) or pruning might we do to change the flow of information and create an opening for a more expansive God to shine through for us?
I think when we are indoctrinated in a certain way of seeing the world that it can be hard to believe that any other way exists – but when we really pause and seek change, new things emerge.  One of my friends who I love following posted a beautiful quote on Facebook today... "Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen."  I think that's a great thought to feed upon.
In 2014, let’s be mindful of the world of information that we submerse ourselves in and seek to consciously shape our surroundings in the image of our most loving creator God.  If we pay attention to the clues of our informational surroundings and adjust what we “ingest” (and generate!) to help us stay connected with the God we believe in, I wonder what new things will emerge!

Ultimately, if we believe, like Joan, in a God of life and hope, hopefully the environments we submerse ourselves in (including media) will reflect and support us in that!

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