Viral Cross-Cultural Cat Videos and Where to Find Them
(real news and where we find it)
If we're paying attention, news of the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East continues to bombard us. Tear gas in Macedonia, deportations in Turkey and the ongoing US refugee-centered political football are frequently highlighted on Internet news feeds. Sometimes even makes nightly news on FOX and CNN, along with the today's viral cat video and the latest escapades of Miley Cyrus and Donald Trump.
World news is a funny thing. Having spent the significant portion of a decade living overseas, we became dependent upon news sources that were not FOX and CNN broadcasts. The perspective of the rest of the world is much more globally focussed than what we typically find in the US media.
In fact, I just did a quick experiment.
I went to the BBC home page. Top story there does relate to the potential departure of the UK from the EU. However, on that page there are several featured articles about global events, including the use of children as "suicide" bombers in the ongoing conflict in Nigeria.
MSNBC's homepage has no featured stories about anything other than the ongoing circus that is the US presidential elections.
While this example is anecdotal and not empirical, I'm suspicious that a deeper dive would produce similar results. A quick Google search produced some research on this topic that was done by the Pew Research Center in 1995. The major variable since that time is the coming of age of the Internet.
I'm not sure our television news has really changed much over the years, with the exception of adding the nightly viral cat-video feature.
(the problem as i see it)
As a Christian, I find the general lack of knowing anything about global happenings to be disturbing, particularly when it comes to the people in the church. We can't care about the things of which we are ignorant. I see this as a problem.
Lots of tweets coming across my feed this week related to the theological discussions happening at the ongoing Together For the Gospel conference. I like this group — the Gospel must be central in our thinking and central to our doing. But - we often live in such a way that theology and activities don't align all that well. I'm not talking about flagrant sin or the trope of being a believer on Sunday after partying down on Saturday night. My deepest concern for the church in America is that we act like Christians in most areas of our lives until it comes to the world around us. We talk about Christian families and values and Christian politics and politicians. There a lot of pastors currently attending a conference to keep our theological house in order. I hope we also take time to concern ourselves with the things that we know Jesus is concerned with.
There is very little information coming across the Twitter feed about the fact that the nation of Burundi is facing the reality of genocide, civil war and a refugee crisis or that several nations in southern Africa are looking at the prospects of a massive food shortage.
The Church must "think Gospel" when it comes to global events.
That's the danger we face. God bless America. We are in the midst of a rising tide of nationalistic Christian conservatism. The danger is not Christian conservatism in of itself (heck, I think I land somewhere in that camp. I guess?). The danger is an inseparable combination of nationalism and faith. At best, it's a stumbling block; at worst, it's damning. This is a subtle marriage and a dangerous union to which every professed believer in America is susceptible.
Americans tend to be Ameri-centric in terms of global happenings. But if the Bible is properly understood, American Christians cannot afford to take the same path on which much of the country is currently walking. Caring for the global poor and vulnerable (physically and spiritually) is not just an option on the Christian menu. This is who we are because this is who Jesus is. It would be wrong of us to just "build a wall."
(what do we do about it?)
There are ways to combat our very narrow default mindset of "my-life-in-this-world-for-my-sake," particularly as Americans. We can do better. As Christians, we must do better. I recommend the following for a start:
Curated news sources.
Stop depending on FOX news or CNN to get your information. While not a huge fan of Google's business model, I do use Google news to follow global happenings. There are specific regions of the world where I want to stay informed. I simply type that into Google news, and save it. I can very quickly get the latest from Syria, Turkey, Burundi or Mongolia. There are other tools that do this, as well. But Google news (with the accompanying iPhone app) works well for me. The New York Times International is also a good source of global information.
Pray while reading
It's not enough to get information. Awareness is a start, but awareness without action equates to meaningless information that will stress you out.
Bring the headlines you read to the feet of Jesus.
Pray for those nations and leaders and peoples who are suffering, being unjust and facing injustice, all without God and without hope. Pray for the church in those places. Pray for the places where the church does not exist. Pray for the church located in parts of the world where it faces extinction. While, it's true, there is very little that any one of us can do about most of what we read ... we can (and I argue, we must) pray.
Be informed. Be broken. Pray.
Be intentionally cross-cultural
For those who are able, I think it's always good to periodically get out of the US and experience other parts of the world. However, not everyone has the means or capacity to do this. The majority of us living in the US do have the capacity to get outside of our cultural comfort zone. We are a nation of immigrants, some simply being more recent immigrants than others. Rather than holding Arabs, Africans or Central Americans suspect, make new friends. Smile. Talk to immigrants, even if there's a language barrier. Ask questions. Let them know you care about them. Immigrants are often afraid and alone (particularly in the current political climate). Simple friendliness goes a long way. Frequent an authentic ethnic restaurant. When you connect to people with humility and take the posture of a learner, it's possible to acquire deep meaningful, cross-cultural friendships. The issue is that of intention.
American Christians should be leading the way and advocating for the foreign born in our midst, as well as for those parts of the world where suffering is at its deepest levels. That's not possible if we are ignorant.
We will remain ignorant if media consumption consists primarily of viral cat videos. We must be intentional.
What ways are you intentionally cross-cultural? In what ways would you like to be more intentionally cross-cultural? Would love your input in the comments below.