Remember the days when, in order to watch a TV show, you had to ‘tune in’ at the one time per week it was ‘on’? If you didn’t catch the movie while it was in the theaters, you missed it! Live sports couldn’t be recorded. And the news could either be consumed through the nightly news or a newspaper. Or by word of mouth. And that was it.
In 2019, we can consume whatever media we want, however we want it. We can tune in once a day to our favorite news program, or get ‘real-time’ notifications on our phones. We can watch a show one episode per week. Or we can ‘binge-watch’ it when it comes out on a streaming app. Podcasts can replace music in the car, on the lawn tractor or while you jog. And books can be read on paper, on a tablet or they can be read to you.
In our media culture, I’ve often dreamed of offering a class or retreat that considers the faithful use of media. How can a Christian grow closer to God through these learning and entertainment opportunities and not get sucked in to the sensationalized, divisive, radicalizing nature of news and entertainment in 2019? The algorithms used by YouTube, for example, are shown to push web surfers further into the rabbit holes they search. Look for an innocent video about whales, for example and after a few clicks, you are being invited to watch the violent hunting practices of Japanese hunters. Search for information on a political candidate and in no time, ads pop up testing your ability to remain calm in the face of opinions you disagree with.
Maybe we could navigate these murky waters together! As the summer approaches and many of us build a summer reading list, I thought I could add to the many recommendations you have heard from other friends and family. As I mentioned this to Andy, our newsletter editor, he thought our whole staff may want to chime in. And not just about media choices, but also about what current events are feeling heavy to us and what prayer concerns are in our hearts. So, this May edition of First’s newsletter will include the first installment of Revelations, a feature at the end of the newsletter where the pastors and staff share what they are listening to/watching/reading/thinking about.
News: After dropping off the kids at school, I listen to ‘The Daily’ podcast produced by the New York Times. I also read “The Times” as my primary news source. “The Economist” is a British newspaper I’ve taken for years that provides an overseas perspective of national and world events.
Books: I am currently in the midst of a few books. “Is That Poop on My Arm? (Parenting While Christian)” was written by a friend of mine, Justin Lind-Ayres. It’s quite good! At home I’m reading “Coolidge” by Amity Schlaes. Did you know that after WWI, there were politicians who tried (and started to succeed) to pay off all war debts so that our taxes no longer went to service national debt but instead could provide services that were necessary?
But then… (the Great Crash, the Depression, etc!)
TV shows: My family subscribes to Netflix and Amazon Prime where I typically watch an hour of TV per day. Recently, Carla and I really enjoyed, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. We didn’t love the final season of “House of Cards”. And right now we’re in search of the next great thing. But I must say, whenever I want a pick-me-up, I watch a chapter of Ken Burns’ “National Parks: America’s Best Idea” and feel better for watching it.
Podcasts: I love new ideas and long-form interviews, which means I love podcasts. Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” and New York Public Radio’s “Radiolab” are by far my favorites. But I also listen to “Pod Save America”, “Intercepted”, “The TED Interview” and “Hardcore History” whenever I can.