Culture At Large

Fighting Japan fatigue

Caryn Rivadeneira

On Friday I did something horrible. In a rare moment of “veg” time in front of the TV, I stopped briefly on a news channel to see what was going on in the world, saw the beginning of a story on the increasingly horrifying situation in Japan and flipped right past it. Not because I was looking for better coverage. Not because I’d already seen this particular news loop. Not because there was some other redeeming show that demanded my attention.

No, I turned it because it bored me. I flipped past that channel because I’d grown tired of the coverage of Japan.

This isn’t easy to admit - in fact, when I realized why I’d flipped the channel, it sparked light onto a rather nasty part of me: the part that cares about the troubles of this world so long as they entice me. So long as they entertain me, essentially.

Mind you, I’m not saying that my prayers for Japan right now aren’t genuine or my concerns aren’t rooted at least partly in good will. But as I look back on my long track record as a news hound, I’ve spent what probably amounts to days glued to the TV watching everything from white Bronco chases to princesses in Paris car crashes to rooftop rescues in New Orleans to earthquakes in already ravaged Haiti to balloon boys in Colorado to miner rescues in Chile.

With each of these, my concern has been real, but probably not so pure. All this stuff, let’s face it, makes for good TV. It’s exciting to follow. But it stinks that this is the case. For many reasons. But mostly, it stinks because even good TV gets old. Even the best shows grow tiresome. After awhile, we’ve just seen enough.

That’s where I’d gotten to with Japan. And Haiti before it. If I’m not careful going forward, it’s how I’ll start to view the escalating situation with Libya.

And yet, as Christians who are called to care for the needs of this world, to seek justice wherever there’s injustice and to dole out mercy wherever it’s needed, That call doesn’t only apply when these needs are “sexy” or newsworthy.

As I’ve thought about my “Japan-news fatigue,” Hebrews 12:1-2 keeps popping into my brain. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” the passage says. “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Clearly, I’ve not been running this particular race well. When it comes to my response to tragedies around the globe, the drama entangles me. I don’t want to view tragedy as entertainment. I need to cast this off. But this isn’t easy. Especially in the situations that scare us so, that remind us of our smallness and powerlessness, where we seek round-the-clock news as comfort - or at least I do - instead of seeking One who controls it all.

So as the sorrows and dangers build in Japan, as we approach probable war with Libya, as atrocities and hurts and injustice continue to rage around the globe, I’ve got some work to do. Some stuff to figure out. Like: how do we resist the temptation to allow suffering to become entertainment? How do we stay mindful, stay informed, stay caring, without getting so absorbed that we simply grow weary of it all?

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Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith, Prayer, News & Politics, World, North America