Stuck in the Mud

I’m sometimes reluctant to talk about how much things have changed. Everyone says it and most are tired of hearing it. It’s a sure-fire way for a pastor and blogger to become known as “Captain Obvious.” So I want to proceed with caution. But…boy oh boy, things have changed (forgive me). When I was growing up my mom and dad were committed to the hallowed hour of 6pm. Our whole lives were scheduled around either being home…or being in someone else’s home at 6pm. The reason was simple-that’s when the news came on. The “world news” came on at 6:30pm…but it played a distant second to the local news. We didn’t have cable tv at my house. In fact, no one did for the longest time. There was no Internet or cellphones. You could not click on an App to catch the latest in your town or the world. Your only shot to find out “things and stuff” came at 6pm. If you failed to make the deadline, you had to wait up until 11pm to catch the late news…and if you missed that…well then you had to wait until the next day. Seems almost barbaric by today’s standards. More than once my parents broke the land speed record trying to get home to “catch the news.” Dad was focused on the news and mom was focused on the weather. Little Markie could have cared less about either but I would sometimes “weather through the news…to get to sports”…(I crack me up). Mom and Dad would almost seem proud that they had accomplished the feat if we made it home in time. My dad would sometimes make the face of a man who had successfully climbed Mt Everest if he had made it through Knoxville traffic in time to catch the news. It’s funny now.

What followed the nightly news was usually my parents’ evaluation of the news. In short, they would discuss what had been shared. Sometimes the news was non-eventful and seemed to pass by without much fanfare. Other times, the news seemed to excite my parents as both agreed something good had been accomplished or was underway. But from time to time, anger set in. Either Knoxville itself or Washington DC had flat messed up. The mayor or the president had evidently failed to take his or her smart pills. My parents didn’t seem to mind talking about this kind of stuff for hours…days…or even weeks. I had usually had my fill after 15 or 20 seconds or so. In some ways, I’m still like that. But my point in sharing this with you is that you see a pattern that has pretty much died out. My parents heard the news…and then had to think and evaluate it. They had to imagine the political impact on our family, church, and town…and ultimately our state and nation. That is no longer the case in our day.

In those days, we had three channels and an outside antenna. The news on all three channels pretty much said the same thing. By the age of 9, I was a 3rd degree blackbelt in Antenna Turning. My dad could say what channel he wanted to watch and Mark the Master knew what to do…stated humbly of course. But one day something happened that caught my attention. My dad wanted to watch the news…not a new thing…but he wanted to watch the news on a channel he didn’t normally watch. Now this might not sound like a big deal to you…but at my house, change didn’t come around much at all…and it never came around without a reason. Being the young genius that I was, I asked Dad why he wanted to watch this channel over his normal one….all of a sudden. Turns out his normal channel had said something he didn’t like about an issue and a friend of his said the station he now wanted to watch had said some things he did like about that same issue in the news. Now I must confess…brilliant as I thought I was…I was literally confused. I thought the news was the news. What could one channel say about “the news” that would cause you to like or not like it? I could see liking a news anchor better than another or picking one where Mark wouldn’t have to go outside and move the antenna after the news went off so you could watch your next show…that made sense. But the rest of it did not.

I had no idea back then that I was being exposed to what would become a whole new way of learning about the world. My dad wanted to listen to the news on the station he liked. Makes sense now…but it didn’t then. Today, I find myself thinking about the problems in our nation and how they are affecting and impacting everything we know. At such a critical time in our nation’s history, we need to be thinking and evaluating…much like my parents used to do at the kitchen table starting at 6:31pm on a nightly basis…once the news went off. Though I tried not to, I actually learned a thing or two walking past them as they went back and forth. A few times, I can even remember one or both of them saying something like, “You know, I had never thought of that before.” Tragically, we don’t often hear anyone say that anymore…and there’s a reason why…we don’t need to.

Today we have the “privilege” of hearing what we want to hear 24/7. Whether in be in the political world or anything other arena you can think of. Rest assured, we have a home for you. If you are a Democrat, you have channels that can feed you the whole day. If you are a Republican, you have an outlet or two as well. This bleeds over into the spiritual arena as well. Liberal theology has YouTube channels and websites…Prosperity Gospel showmen have the same…as do the conservatives and fundamentalists. My point is you can listen to whatever you already believe all day long. A young person today has the luxury (?) of going only where they want to go. Listening to something you don’t agree with is a game…and a chance to make fun of someone.

Now some would say this variety is nice. I was taught as a kid that “variety is the spice of life.” But I ask you to consider something…do we really have variety at all? Most of the news outlets we turn to get our fix insist on how stupid the other channels are. True “freedom” can only be found “here”…wherever that is. Truth is we can get well-versed in hate with all this alleged variety. Most major media outlets have become excellent at teaching us to hate the other side. Not exactly Christian, is it? I remember several years ago watching a game show where a lady from the northeast who lived in a predominantly Democratic state was asked a question about a presidential election from years ago and she said she has never looked at the other side of the ballot. Everyone laughed and clapped. Though it was years ago, I remember thinking, “Is that really something we should be laughing and clapping about?” She had never looked at the other side and never planned to…and this was somehow applaudable?

Today, we are blessed to live in a country where not only am I always right…but you’re always wrong. I’m smart…and you are not. We can watch “our” news stations and pat ourselves on the back. We can tell our children how stupid the other side is and feel good about it. They will get the blessing of growing up with a hate gene cocked and loaded. The best part…we don’t have to think. We can get the news we want, the sermons we want, the music we want, the thoughts we want…without even trying to consider anyone else…so wherever we are is where we will stay. And if this wasn’t awesome enough…just consider we don’t even have to hear from the other side(s). Why? We have our own station, channel, site, and app. Variety? Me thinkest not.

As I sit here typing, I’m thinking of some young person who has been told how horrible Christianity is. Christians are narrow-minded. The Bible is outdated. The church teaches hate and bigotry. Jesus died…and good riddance…if He existed at all. Not only does this young person believe this…he or she has been told this by family, the professor, the app on their phone, their daily email, their friends, their YouTube subscriptions, etc. Their favorite news outlets only reinforce these beliefs. Thankfully, they will never really have to hear otherwise…unless they have a break in the action or someone is able to penetrate the defenses. Forever they will stay…right where they are. It doesn’t matter that they are 18…or 25. They will go to voting booths with the belief that any mention of morality by a candidate is unnecessary. What really breaks my heart…I feel like I’ve just described millions of people…

Let me close with another picture that’s in my mind. I’m thinking of someone out there who is a Christian…a Christian who is feeling the pressure of today’s world. This person also has apps, stations, emails, YouTube subscriptions, news channels, and people of influence. This person fights anger everyday when he watches the news and hears the blatant biases of the media. This person tries not to give in to hate…and tries to see people as sinners…in need of a Savior. Sinners act like sinners…countless pastors have told this young man that for years. Every Sunday, this person makes himself get up and go to church…even though he’s tired and has a rough week in front of him. Many of his friends no longer go to church…but he still tries. Satan tells him almost daily nobody cares anymore. Virtually no one thinks like a Christian anymore…why bother? That Bible is old…even if it has a bunch of highlighted and underlined verses that have helped him along for years. He remembers very well when he didn’t care…when he thought no one else did. And then someone told him about Jesus…and that He had died on a cross for him…and his sins. The same person told him that he had prayed for him for years. He wept like a baby…and vowed to never forget Jesus, the person who had told him about Jesus, and the many out there who still didn’t know Him. And so he prays…and he tries. Tomorrow…he will do the same. He’s done it for years…and has vowed to keep on keeping on (thank you Lance Abbott).

Perhaps we should join him…for there’s a lot of folks out there…stuck in the mud. They don’t even realize it. Every day, their actions only cause them to sink deeper. They need help. God has a plan to help them. Every Christian is part of the solution. They listen to voices that drown them. May we listen to the Voice that saves…the Voice that enables…the Voice that strengthens. We need that Voice…and so do those around us.

Blessings my friends. Thanks for stopping by. Monticello…you sure are pretty this time of year.

Bro Mark

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