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  • Reverend James Squire

The News Cycle

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

Since the advent of cable news with the founding of CNN in June of 1980 by Ted Turner, we have been introduced to the phenomenon of the news cycle. It broadcasts 24 hours a day and became more a part of the culture with CNN’s coverage of the Gulf War. CNN made you feel that you were right in the mix of the action. The average cable news coverage of an event is 41 seconds. Experts even feel that is too much to keep the viewer involved. The worst time to release a story is 5:00 PM on a Friday as the news staff is reduced at that time. The newspapers have a 24-hours news cycle where some are feeling is too long to wait. Hence, one of the reasons for the growth of cable news is impatience. I am amazed at how quickly a news story will leave the headlines while another perceived as more exciting and relevant takes over. It seems, at times, that it is more like entertainment than the news as it strives to get the attention of the viewer. I watch CNN and have learned that if you stay on for 20 minutes, you will get all you need to know before the next reminder of what is in the cycle. The cable networks feed on our short-term memories that we will forget quickly about the story that was so important a day ago.

Let me introduce a cycle that is more important to produce meaning and happiness than today’s news cycle. It is the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes with its own news cycle and is fitting for our days of the Pandemic and Black Lives Matter.

The author of the book is Kohelet. Others feel that it was written around 1000 B.C. by Solomon who God gave the gift of a lifetime, wisdom. It contains in Chapter 3:1-8 those oft heard words: "For everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted, a time to kill and a time to heal"…it continues by reflecting that “life is a two-edged sword” where everything has an opposite issue. It reminds me of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof when he says on the “one hand this and on the other hand that.”

The book reflects the limits of human power, something that folks in Washington need to consider. We can describe our current dilemma of 2020 that we are in the midst of an unpredictable world. Even so, Solomon presses us to try to find enjoyment and meaning in spite of what we are experiencing.

In this Biblical news feed, Solomon addresses the all to usual paths that we take to achieve happiness. He takes us through a series of things that we do to be happy. Keep in mind that this book was written around 1000 B.C. What was true then of our search for happiness is still true today particularly during the 2020 times of challenge and heartache.

Solomon’s cycle has us seeking happiness through education, pleasure, work, wealth, winning, and women and men who seek the pleasures of sex (Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines). Solomon knew all of these avenues that he and we pursue. Each one of these is seen in the book as a news feed that comes and goes as we move through these choices until we reach the Big Breaking News that God must be the center of our lives for any of these choices to have any effect on our happiness.

During 2020 confronted with disease and injustice for black people, many find themselves throwing up their hands proclaiming “What good does it do? What will really change? What’s it all about?" These questions lead to a sense of meaninglessness. A central bias of Solomon’s words is his slant on things, not conservative or liberal but something else. Simply the book of Ecclesiastes proclaims there is a joy in connecting to God. Meaningless in this Biblical news feed interprets the Hebrew word for meaningless “as walking through a fog”.

What brings clarity is to consider another news feed in Ecclesiastes. “Vanity is vanity. All is vanity.” These are also words included in this book. They are a reference to those who have a sense of arrogance and lack humility. We have heard the word, narcissistic, many times this year. It means to love self to the point that it destroys you. It is based in the Myth of Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water, tried to embrace the image, and died.

The words of Ecclesiastes were written eons ago yet are so apt to what we are going through now and how in the end we achieve true happiness with our relationship and connection to the living loving Lord and God. That is the big story. It shouldn’t leave us in a news cycle for it will be what brings us to a better today and tomorrow and each 24-hour period that follows. CNN gives us the facts over and over. The words in Ecclesiastes are the real breaking news which have been there down through the ages. I think even Wolf Blitzer would tell you that truth quickly after he proclaims, “Breaking News. Stay with us. It is coming up after the next break.

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