PRAYING THE [LATEST] NEWS
A SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE. I have not been so busy or dull as to have little thought for local, national, and international events that are shaping our lives. I have simply chosen, through Advent and Christmastide, to withhold comment for a while. But the events of the past month have been on mind and in my contemplative prayer. I continue to pray the news and invite others to join in this contemplative spiritual discipline (I've permanently posted a sidebar link to the local Carmelite monastery, which has a helpful guide to praying the news).
Here are some of the local, national, and international events that I've been praying:
NEW MAYOR IN INDY. I was surprised that Bart Peterson was not elected to a third term as Mayor of Indianapolis back in November. I believe Peterson to be a person of spiritual integrity and a broad-thinking civic leader. I will always count it a privilege to have had numerous conversations with him and to have his enthusiastic support in the redevelopment of Horizon House as a nationally-recognized model for homeless day centers. I know next to nothing about Greg Ballard, Indy's new mayor. I know he exploited local dissatisfaction with rising property taxes (over which a mayor has nominal control) and a recent spike in local crime. Beyond criticism of Peterson, Ballard's platform seemed very narrow. But now that Ballard is elected and in office, I will do my best to keep the mission of a city before him.
BENAZIR BHUTTO TRAGEDY. You could almost see it coming. Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto seemed possessed of an uncontainable drive to bring sanity to her nation. She made a brave return from self-imposed exile to become, once again, a vital part of the democratic process for reaching a consensus government in the face of militarism and extremism. But while the West and Pakistani moderates smiled on her efforts, Bhutto became a lightning rod for extremists and a real challenge for the current military regime. Even before her assassination, I put her in the stream of an Anwar Sadat or Menachim Begin. Her headlong drive toward democracy's peaceful promise places her in its circle of honor. Let us pray for the people of Pakistan and that entire region in the wake of this tragic loss.
BARACK OBAMA'S BREAKTHROUGH. Wednesday's caucus victory in Iowa is an incredible breakthrough for Barack Obama. Here is an African American defeating two high-profile white candidates in a predominantly white Midwestern state in the most drawn-out, closely-watched, openly-debated political contest in American politics. Obama embodies the kind of hope for change that most Democrats want. Also, he is more a political progressive than any other political identifier. I think his success will hinge on working within this ideological framework. I, for one, appreciate and applaud what I have thus far observed in his writings, words, and conduct. May he exercise wisdom in the cut-throat days that lie ahead as the primary campaign heats up.
HUCKABEE'S APPEAL. Pundits are crediting Mike Huckabee's striking Iowa caucus victory with his appeal to Evangelical or "values" voters. I think the pundits are only partly right. Huckabee is not all that conservative; he doesn't line up very consistently with the special interests of the value-voters bloc of PACs and conservative poobahs. Huckabee's appeal is that he is running against money and the machine. He has, at least for now, effectively tapped into the imaginations of un-moneyed conservatives. While the soul and control of the Republican Party seems mostly to be about protecting moneyed and business interests, the electability of a Republican lies in being able to effectively obfuscate that narrow agenda to convincingly demonstrate that it cares about and will best serve the interests of ordinary citizens. At this point, Huckabee better embodies this than all the other Republican candidates combined. We'll see how things go in New Hampshire--a very different political animal than Iowa.
BEYOND THE HEADLINES. Headlines move from the last to the latest to the next brewing crisis. Darfur is set aside for Pakistan, which is set aside for Kenya. The international news media light will likely shine on another crisis next week. Will its wake be merely shadow and darkness? Does newsworthiness equal worthiness? Will carelessness return once a crisis subsides and the news crews move on? Are the news headlines the most important things happening in the world on this day? I have to continually remind myself that the news media does not determine what is authentically news or newsworthy--what is right, wrong, promising, troubling, important, unimportant, prudent, imprudent, etc.
STAYING WITH A STORY. God bless the free press; may it always be free and speak freely. However, to be frank, the news media is usually only 50% accurate, not particularly interested in understanding or conveying understanding, often exploitative and has its own self-serving agenda. But at its best, the news media can shine a light. And, at our best, people can engage a situation upon which the news media temporarily shines. The extent to which we engage a "yesterday's news" situation may be a matter of careful discernment, discipline, calling, and Christian responsibility. The future may well hinge on our ability to stay with a story when the news media has moved.