How to Weather a Bad News Cycle with Jesus - Bonnie Kristian (Podcast Episode 20)

How do you weather the news when it seems like one piece of bad news after another? Or if you’re in a season of work where you keep getting slammed with the negative? Guest Bonnie Kristian is here to talk to us about how she fights bad news fatigue. Kristian follows the news as part of her job. As a journalist, she writes about foreign policy, criminal justice, election politics and more. But Kristian not only follows the news, she reflects on it with the grace that comes from her Christian faith.

Scripture References

Matthew 6:33
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteouesness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NRSV)

Romans 12:1-2, 9-21
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sister, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect...Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do no be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (NRSV)

Romans 13:1
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authoririties that exist have been instituted by God. 

 

Additional Resources Referenced

The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, by Justin Whitmel Earley

Bonnie Kristian's website: www.bonniekristian.com

 

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Transcript

​​Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.

Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work

LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace. I’m Mark Roberts.

LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.

How do you weather the news cycle when it seems like just one piece of bad news after another, or what if you're stuck in a season of your work where you just keep getting slammed with the negative? Our guest today is here to talk to us about how she fights bad news fatigue in her work. Bonnie Kristian follows the news as part of her job. As a contributing editor at The Week, Bonnie writes about foreign policy, criminal justice, election politics, and more. Her op-eds have appeared in publications such as USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, Politico, and Time, among others. But Bonnie Kristian not only follows the news, she reflects on it with the grace that comes from her Christian faith. She's also the author of a book, A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today. Bonnie Kristian, welcome to the Making It Work podcast.
 
BK: Thank you so much for having me.
 
LA: Thank you so much for being here. So tell me, was there a time in your work, either recently or a long time ago, when you felt particularly weary of hearing bad news? 
 
BK: I complain a lot to my friends that there really has been an escalation in the last four or five years of the pace of the news cycle, that's not something that feels real, but isn't... It really has happened. It used to be that government agencies and companies, if they had a piece of news that they didn't want people to see, they would release it on a Friday afternoon because nobody's paying attention, everyone's gone home for the weekend. Well, now, everyone is just as engaged on Friday afternoon as they are at every other time, and we have a President who's up and tweeting at 6am Saturday morning, and so the news cycle has really taken over the weekend in a way it had not, in the very recent history, and so this is a real shift, it's not just something that we're imagining. And from a journalism perspective, it's frustrating, it's frustrating for us to be called back to the office when there's a sense of something big enough has happened that we have an obligation to come and write about it, when we're trying to maintain some sort of reasonable work-life balance and not be sucked into this constantly and not be so fixated all of the time.
 
LA: And for normal human beings who don't work in journalism, it's stressful enough to feel like you can never get away from knowing what's going on in the world, but for you, where this is actually your profession, there seems to be a way that work can kind of pervade into your home life.
 
BK: Yeah, I mean, I think for people who are not in journalism, this is another thing that is legitimately different, the way that social media and our phones that we always have with us, many people have news apps and it pings, it alerts you whenever a new major headline breaks. And then yes, within journalism, it's just always there, there's always a new story, in the first year or two of the Trump presidency, there was a long stretch where it seemed like the Washington Post and the New York Times in particular, which sort of save up big scoops that they've been clearly been working on for a week or two and release them right, before the weekend. In that time when it used to be where you put something out because you didn't want people to see, they would put it out then because they were like, "Look, here's this moment where we can seize everyone's attention," and then the whole rest of the news industry feels this sense of, "Well, we have to go back to work and write that up because it's a major news story that we have to tell people about."
 
LA: So what has that meant for you in your job? How has your job changed as a result of this, over the past few years? 
 
BK: Well, I've been fortunate in that time that I've moved away from some of the more straight news reporting that I was doing, where that is very dictated by what's happening. For a while, I was a weekend editor, and so over the weekend period, I was the one who was on call and who had to come back and work odd hours when things like this happened. Now that I'm doing pretty strictly opinion journalism, that does give me more flexibility and more control over my own schedule, and so I've tried to make good use of that shift, and to draw pretty clear boundaries of times when I'm not going to use my phone, I'm not going to be on the internet, even doing things like making sure that I don't have any news apps on my phone and making it pretty difficult for big headlines to get to me when it's not the time for me to be looking at those headlines.
 
LA: Wait, that surprises me. You don't have news apps on your phone? 
 
BK: I have no news apps on my phone, I do not have email installed on my phone, I don't have Twitter installed on my phone, I don't have Facebook installed on my phone. I use my phone for... I mean, I do read stuff, news in the browser a little bit, but even there, I've got it set up, iPhones have a service where you can have it cut you off from certain apps or even specific websites after a certain number of minutes per day, and you can override that cut off, but at the very least, it gives you a nudge of like, Hey, you've been on this site for 20 minutes now. Do you still need to be here? 
 
LA: Oh wow, I'm just having an oh-wow moment. Mark, can I get something, do you think that overrides me when I work too hard? 
 
MR: I love that. Bonnie, I love it that you have the wisdom—as somebody who really needs to be at times, deeply engaged and connected—you have the wisdom to know, sometimes you really need to break. I mean, it's a version of Sabbath, it's a really important version of Sabbath, and I think it's great. My sort of version of that, so I have a couple of news apps, but you can get rid of the notifications 'cause those can drive you crazy. And so at least... And I don't get notified with email, so even though my phone will do it... So I'm a slightly less sophisticated version of your commitment, but I love it that you're doing that.
 
BK: Yeah, I mean, I think it's vital. That sort of daily habit building environment where you're getting these regular notifications, you're building this habit of every time you pick up your phone, you cycle through these five apps, I think it's incredibly vital to make that cycle as limited and brief as possible.
 
LA: It almost sounds like a spiritual practice in the level of difficulty that is warranted in the self-control, I'm thinking of the fruits of the Spirit, you know one of them is self-control, and it seems like a tremendous exercise of self-control to keep from checking like, "Is there something... Is there something, I'm missing?" Bonnie, do you... Have you ever seen the limits that you put on your news exposure as a spiritual practice, or was there a time that you kind of had to go through a transition where you learned it as a spiritual practice?
 
BK: Yeah, I mean, to some extent, some of it are things that I chose, maybe not so deliberately, not so consciously. For example, the email thing, as soon as I got my first smartphone, I thought, I don't... I get so many emails every day, I don't wanna get notified about those, so that was sort of a long-standing thing without any real explicit spiritual dimension to it. But one resource that I've come across in the last year that has really helped to focus a lot of my thinking about this, and you all may be familiar with it, is a book by a guy named Justin Whitmel Earley called The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction. And essentially what he presents is a set of eight habits that you develop to basically beat back on the often digital, but not exclusively digital demands on our attention, and so four of them are daily habits, four of them are weekly habits.
 
BK: I don't do quite all of them, but I do a lot of them, so for example, one of his things, one of the daily habits is spending an hour a day with your phone off, another one is always reading scripture for the day before you begin checking any of your messaging apps or anything else on your phone. So it's things like this, and it's a great book, and one of the great things that he explains really well is—you mentioned self-control—the merit of building habits is that at a certain point, you're not really exercising self-control, it's just how your brain is set to function, and so it can become ideally much less of something that you really have to work at it, it's just something that is part of your daily routine, just as much as brushing your teeth.
 
MR: So Bonnie, it's so interesting you say that 'cause about four years ago, I heard somebody talking about this, I realized that, yeah, the first thing I did in the morning was check my phone for news and pretty soon... And email, okay? And often that would completely disrupt my morning or ruin my mood or all these kinds of things, and... So about four years ago, I started just what you said, and it's made a huge difference, I don't check email and I don't look at news until after my morning exercise and devotions, and it feels like I start my day so differently now, but that particular discipline has really been important in my life.
 
BK: Yeah, you know there's that quote and I'm going to botch it and I can't remember who said it, but it's something to the effect of like, "We can no more remember all the books we've read, than all the meals we've eaten, but just the same, they make us," that idea that what we're consuming on a daily basis, even if we're not retaining it, even if it feels so ephemeral and fleeting, that does form you over time, and the order in which you're exposed to them forms you over time. And I find myself in a weird place of advising people, I think the average person needs to consume a lot less news and journalism, including my own stuff than they do, and I think it's really difficult to overstate the deleterious effects of social media on which... My own work gets a lot of attention sometimes, but I think these are really dangerous things that we can't curtail enough almost.
 
LA: So it reminds me of something Jesus said to a lot of his followers who were very anxious about, What's gonna happen to us?" He said, "Seek first the kingdom of God," this is in Matthew chapter 6, verse 33, and I wonder if this verse could be somewhat applicable to what we're talking about, whereas you're saying, Bonnie, you, first thing in the morning, you're seeking God through your scripture reading and then let all the anxious things come in after that, but you're more prepared.
 
BK: Yeah, I think so, and I think a significant... Something that I try to keep in mind more broadly in writing about politics is sort of that prioritization of focus that that verse suggests, remembering that many of the things that we're spending so much time and angst on right now will be forgotten in a month, in a day. I mean, someone recently got mad at me on Twitter because I'd written something that I thought was quite non-controversial about the President-Elect Joe Biden, and he was very mad that my "whole focus was on this right now... like, aren't there so many more important things you could focus on”, and my response to him, like I wanna...
 
LA: Like I only get this many words on twitter.
 
BK: Yeah, well, that...
 
LA: How many things can I focus on? 
 
BK: And also, this article will be forgotten in a day, it's a day's work, nobody's gonna read it in a week from now because things will have moved on. It's such a small thing. And as much as I wanted to say that to push back on him being mad about my attention to this, it's also true, most things I write... Most things I write on a day-to-day basis, people will read them for about a week and then almost no one will ever see them again.
 
LA: So say more. How do you think of this verse, Matthew 6:33, "Seek first the kingdom of God." How does that relate to your work in political journalism? 
 
BK: Well, a lot of what I write these days, certainly not all, but a lot of it will tend to have to be at the intersection of religion and politics. I think this question is always applicable to Christians of any political persuasion, with any politician or program or what have you, that they particularly like. That politics is somewhat unique among things we encounter in our daily lives, in that it makes ultimate claims, it makes claims about the truth of the world, the way things are, the way humans are in a way that, for example, plumbing does not, right? 
 
Like there are a lot of jobs you can do that are not competing for your loyalty and your sense of being in the way that politics does, and of course, politics is not just a job, for many people it's an interest, a hobby. And so I think for whether you are doing it full-time like I am, or even if you just are an ordinary person with an interest in politics, that's something to always be monitoring, like are you seeking the kingdom first or is politics sort of creeping its way into your life and distracting you and taking that place that it should not have.
 
LA: Now, there are certain claims that I hope my plumber can make confidently of the direction of the flow of the wastewater in my house for instance, but you do raise an important point that politics is somewhat unique in the topics we deal with every day, where there are huge disputes where people are really willing to risk their lives over politics, but also religion fits that description. So do you feel like there's a heavy burden on your shoulders because you work in this field, more so than perhaps me and Mark who are laymen, so to speak.
 
BK: I mean, to some extent, certainly, I think any time you're in public making claims about what the world is like, and especially doing it, not everything I write by a long shot, mentions my faith or identifies me as a Christian, but it's pretty easy to find that stuff out. And sometimes I am explicitly addressing it, and so to be in the public eye, and not that I'm famous but to be in a public space and the public square saying stuff and saying it easily identified as a Christian. Yeah, I think there's a responsibility there, and one that I hope that I do fairly well, certainly there's always room for improvement.
 
LA: Are there either verses in the Bible or characters in the Bible that you look to as models of how you wanna do your work well? 
 
BK: You know, one passage that I think about is Romans 12, Romans 13 the beginning of it, is the classic Christians and government passage, and without getting into all the ways that can be interpreted, however you interpret it, a lot of what Romans 13 says about government really applies, it's descriptive of the people themselves in government, which is not me and which is not most Christians. And so the context that it's in of Romans 12 is far more widely applicable. In fact, it applies to all Christians, and if you turn back to that, it's not about punishing evil doers and authority and this sort of thing. It's about being at peace with all people, so far as it depends on you, blessing and not cursing people who persecute you, that sort of thing, and practicing hospitality, being faithful in prayer and patient in affliction.
 
And so that I think partly just because it's very much a list of the basic characteristics of the Christian life, but also because it does proceed this part about government, which isn't politics in the same sense as we have now, of course, because this was written during the Roman Empire, but there's a contrast, I think, between what Romans 12 says Christians should be doing and then this pivot to how does the state behave. And so I think that the guidance in Romans 12 is always applicable, but particularly when we are engaging with the government with the power of the state, that that contrast becomes even more important.
 
LA: Well, let me read just a little bit of these passages for our listeners, and then Mark I wanna hear your thoughts. But Romans 13 starts off with, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." And that's how Romans 13 starts out, and then it goes on to talk a little bit more about how life will go better with you if you are in peace with governing authority... authorities and not rebelling against them. But then let's go back to Romans 12 which you mentioned, and there's a lot that's not about politics, as you said, but about how we interact with each other. For example, Romans 12, verse 9 says, "love must be sincere, hate what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love." Verse 14 says, "Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse." Verse 17 says, "Do not repay any one evil for evil." So a lot of this actually is applicable to our political discourse in a way that I don't know, I would have thought of, if you hadn't, Bonnie, brought out that distinction of those, you know, Romans 12 being directly in front of Romans 13. Mark, have you ever thought about this link before? 
 
MR: You know, not in just that way. And Bonnie, I love that insight that it's interesting to just hold those two chapters together in a certain amount of tension. 'Cause on the one hand, we are to submit to the governing authorities, and that seems like... Well, we just... It could seem like well, I guess we just sort of give in, then you got... In the beginning of Romans 12, "Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed." And so it means as Christians, we're in this interesting place of tension on the one hand, to recognize that governing authority is from God and to submit to it, on the other hand not to be conformed to this world. I think of Philippians 3 that talks about how our true citizenship is in heaven, which is not to deny that we have an earthly citizenship that matters, but there's another citizenship.
 
So from the very beginning, Christians have struggled with the different lords around, so you had as you mentioned, the Roman world, Caesar identified himself as Lord, and Christians claiming Jesus is Lord ended up, in many cases, being killed for that kind of commitment. And so thankfully, most of us today, certainly in this country, don't live in that kind of situation, but we do live in this tension between how are we faithful to God and how do we live faithfully as Christians then in this country at this time? And I love the way you're putting together those texts though, I think that has a lot to inform us and a lot of challenge in it.
 
LA: Bonnie, do you think it's easier or harder for you to be a person of faith and a political op-ed writer, does your faith make your job easier? Or does it make it more difficult to some degree? 
 
BK: I think some of both, I have to assume that my readers know nothing about Christianity. And so there's a difficulty that comes with that of explaining things briefly and well, and helping people to understand what I'm talking about. And also thinking about if I'm maybe the only semi-regular encounter that this person is having with someone who professes Christianity, are the takes I’m writing reflecting well on that, am I getting into things that are in spirit or in lack of prudence, that are just not reflecting well. So that in that sense, I think it's more difficult. But on the other hand, there's a real problem in our country, which is that as religiosity declines and more and more people are not merely growing up in church and then leaving the faith but growing up with zero knowledge of any religion. And of course, historically, that typically would have been Christianity here, there's just a growing knowledge gap of... People really don't know what Christianity is about.
 
And so, references that Christians would make or allusions that we would make things that, or behaviors that we would consider very common place, very ordinary, basic stuff that's not controversial at all, is wild to many Americans in a way that it just wasn't. It wasn't so strange in times past, and so I don't know if easy is the right word, but there’s certainly a niche to be filled sometimes. In fact, the article I'm working on for The Week today, I would say, falls into that genre of sort of explaining in almost like the very early church apologetic sense, when the pagan world around them just legitimately had no idea what they were talking about. There are stories where I'm able to write like, "Look, this is what's going on here," like, "This is why it makes sense to these people that they did this or that they spoke this way, and it's not like the bad intentions that perhaps you assumed, or it's not the strange thing that it seems like," and I think that could be a useful service and a service that it might be easier for me to provide them than other writers.
 
LA: In the past few months or I would say, in the past year, as you were saying, in these past few years, we've all felt growing anxiety because of the omnipresence of news on our phones and alerting us, and also with that there's the omnipresence of bad news, even if life is going well around me, there's always something going worse somewhere else in the world that I can be made aware of it, perhaps for the benefit of my awareness, but for the detriment of my own mental health. And so I wonder if there's been any story recently in your career, any particular event or anything that was just very difficult for you to have to cover or reflect on, or felt like you were taking a toll or something that you had to bring to God in a different way.
 
BK: I mean, I would say at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic and then the elections news cycle, which is half of our lives now and has been just dragging on forever, I think those twin stories dominating the news environment for so long has really reached... It's been this way for some time now but I would say, especially in the last month or so. We've really reached a point where I... And I know I'm not alone in this, have this... Journalists have this feeling of what else is there to say about this? What is there to say that is worth saying because you can figure out some opinion and write it up, and crank out your 800 words, but if you want to actually be saying things that are worthwhile and that can sincerely say, "I believe that people should read this." It's become very difficult at this stage to find something that is worth my time, and even worth my readers' far more limited time that they're spending reading vs. writing.
 
LA: And I should say we're recording this, it's November of 2020, so for anyone listening, maybe later in the year, or binge listening to our podcast, I hope you do. But... So we've been living through a global pandemic for many months now, and it looks like we're gonna continue to live through it for the foreseeable future, so there's this anxiety in all of our hearts like, "What is the future gonna be like. We wanna know more," and yet there really is no more to know, but...
 
BK: Yeah, there's just this indefinite timeline at least theoretically, the election story has to end in two months now, but for the pandemic, there's just this indefinite timeline, and I think... And this partially goes back to what we were talking about about social media and how it shapes our attention and our attention spans, but even I think humans don't do super well with indefinite timelines and with nothing to look forward to, nothing to like a specific date. There's no graduation that you're working towards, it's a lot easier to say, slog through a hard school semester if you know that at the end of it, you're graduating and you can look on the calendar and say, "This date it will be done," we have nothing analogous to that. And so I think even for people who are well-intentioned, and I would say this includes both ordinary people in daily life trying to not get sick and not get other people sick, and then also for journalists like me trying to write about it, there's just this immense fatigue and uncertainty, and it's very difficult. Even if you have a good idea of what is the right thing to do, it's very difficult to do that when there's no end in sight.
 
LA: Now, Mark, I'm trying to relate like is there anything in our experience today living through this global pandemic, which is not anything that any of us have lived through, but certainly other people throughout history have lived through pandemics, but you know, I'm trying to think, is there anything in our experience today that can harken back to scripture, are there any models in the scripture for people who have dealt with this sort of thing? And certainly, there's no COVID-19 in scripture, but there also was this feeling among Jesus's early disciples that they were on the verge of a world-ending change. There's certainly a lot of new age, end-of-the-world language in some of the gospels, and certainly that was very alive in the culture of the disciples, when the disciples are asking Jesus like, "Tell us, when are these things gonna happen?" That's in Mark 13, verse 4. So I wonder, Mark, if you see any kind of links between, what the early Christian community was going through in their not knowing. And what we're going through today.
 
MR: Well, if we kinda think just throughout all the scripture, people went through really, really hard things, a lot. We could just think, for example, of 400 years of slavery in Egypt, that's a long haul of not good things, it's almost incomprehensible to think of that, and... Plagues were common, famines were common, people experienced death far more commonly than we do from illness and things, so in terms of life being hard and unpredictable, I think that's pretty much throughout scripture, and certainly, you know the earliest Christians were in a really difficult place. They’re subjects of an empire that is not very friendly to them, increasingly, and difficulties, and so there was certainly the hope that God might intervene in a way that really made things better soon right here in our living experience. And then of course, the Christians had to sort out the fact that it didn't exactly happen that way. That faith in Jesus made a huge difference, but it didn't solve the Roman problem and it didn't solve all of their life problems, and so learning to be patient, learning to wait on God, learning not to know certain things, that's really...
 
That's a hard thing to go through, but if anything, what we're facing with the Coronavirus probably puts us more in the position like people in the time of Jesus in terms of uncertainty and not knowing and having to learn to live with limitations than in other seasons of life where we can at least think, we've got it all figured out and we can get the answers and we can rely on ourselves. So what does that do for us? It puts us again and again back into God's hands and trusting God. I go back to Psalm 46 a lot, because it talks about, even if the mountains are quaking and the sea is foaming, we can trust that God is our God and God is for us, and God is with us in the midst of that uncertainty and difficulty and challenge. And so for many of us, we now have the opportunity to find God in this present moment without knowing exactly how things are gonna go. Right?
 
LA: It certainly does make me feel more human in a way that I think I had been tricked into not feeling with my smartphone and my control over my environment and my control over my work, I thought I was doing pretty good, and certainly having a large upset where not only my own work but the whole... Everyone's work is very different. Has made me realize my own fragility, my own mortality in a way that I think I had falsely forgotten.
 
MR: Yes, for sure. And I wanna circle back to one thing you were asking Bonnie about how she writes as a Christian when there’s something particularly difficult to write about. I mean, one of the things I did to prepare for this conversation was I went to Bonnie's website, and she's got a page of... She calls it recent publications, I actually think they're probably not the most recent, but it's an amazing collection. Now, Bonnie, you're not only prolific, but you speak to so many different things, and you're such a good writer at that too. The reason I say that is I just... We were back in talking about the Romans text, and it strikes me that one of the things you're doing is you're really engaging the world, and we need Christians to engage the world. And that's messy. It's so much easier to not engage. It's so much easier to be salt still in the saltshaker than to be salt out in the world. And yes, some of it is not obviously Christian, but all of it is informed, I think, by a Christian commitment to truthfulness, to charity. So much writing today is not that, and so partly I wanna thank you and encourage you and our listeners might wanna check out your writing too, just because it's a great example of a faithful Christian really seeking to sort of be in the world, but not of the world, to care about the world, but not to be conformed to the world.
 
BK: Thank you.
 
LA: Something that I noticed from this conversation, which I don't know if it surprised me, but... No, it surprises me a little bit. It's that you're so calm, Bonnie, and I would have thought someone who is a news analyst would be, I don't know, a little bit more jumpy. So tell me, have you always been this calm in relation to your work, or was there some kind of spiritual path that you had to walk to get here? 
 
BK: Well, it's probably why I won't ever have a career in cable news, but I think different people who write about news have different strategies for dealing with this, but for me, at least, I have and... I don't know that I can really claim credit for this as some sort of deliberate spiritual discipline, but so much is just a function of personal inclination, but I tend to try to cultivate a certain detachment. And I think in some sense, this happens whether you intend to or not just as a surgeon, for example, is not going to get really emotionally involved or worked up in as they're dealing with blood and guts, quite literally. I think if you are writing about these things and thinking about wars and shootings and whatnot on a daily basis, your brain sort of puts in a boundary to sort of cease thinking about that when it's not time to think about it anymore, and if it doesn't, I think it leads to a lot of just real dysfunction in personal life and anxiety that is very difficult to control.
 
And so something that I think about frequently as the... All the election chaos and turmoil was happening, and then people were so worried about what would the outcome be and how would the president respond, and so on, that that same week, there were a few things that happened, there was someone in our church who was ill and we were organizing a meal train for them, and we had an outdoor, very pandemic safe get together with a few of our friends. And I was also running through our neighborhood, which looked entirely normal, and across the street neighbor, who I pretty sure has very different politics then we do is organizing to get our alleys plowed for this winter. And so many things that have nothing to do with my work and national politics and any of the things that I write about are far more important to the quality of my daily life and the quality of the daily life of people around me, and that's not at all to minimize the importance of politics, it's hugely important, and sometimes it's literally a matter of life and death. But I think to stay something resembling sane, when thinking about this stuff day in and day out, you have to be able to stop thinking about it fairly often.
 
LA: I appreciate hearing the peaceful distance that you have with the subject of your work, which it sounds like enables you to do your work more effectively, to reach people more effectively. So if I have one takeaway from our conversation today it's to put some boundaries in place with me to have a godly distance from the subjects that I care deeply about, but the subjects that may be a little bit inflammatory to me. Mark, do you have a key take away from our conversation today? 
 
MR: Well, one thing, I'm just gonna read more of your stuff Bonnie, 'cause like I said, you've written on so many different things and you're a very interesting writer. So thank you for that. I think for me, it's just... This has been a good encouragement to rethink my own practices, my own rule of life, if you will, and am I living each and every day in such a way and engaging in practices that are going to help me to be more like Christ in all that I do. I don't have quite the public influence that you do, Bonnie, but I do have some, and I need to live in such a way in Christ that I'm stewarding that well, and becoming more and more the person that God wants me to be so that then I can back to Romans 12, present my body as a living sacrifice and give myself to the Lord and live for the Lord in everything I do. And so I'm gonna think a little bit, I'm gonna think again about the practices in my life and discover whether there isn't more to be learned, I'm intrigued by the way you talked about your use of a smartphone too, so I gotta think about that too.
 
LA: Bonnie, if there's one piece of advice that you give our listeners about weathering the cycle of bad news, either from their smartphone or bad news in their work, what would that be? 
 
BK: I think the... If I had to reduce it to one thing, it would be you have to set limits in advance, you have to set them deliberately. There's no scenario in which you finish out the day in the news cycle that we have on any sort of regular basis, having accidentally limited your attention to it because it's always there. It's always coming for you, it's always algorithmically designed to be the most inflammatory version specifically for you. If you're reading things on Facebook or YouTube, or... Obviously not reading on YouTube, but Facebook, Twitter, any of these sites, the algorithms are designed to inflame and to anger you, to get you to comment and share and so on. And so if you do not plan these things and if you do not take honest stock of what you really need to know for your daily life, then you won't just sort of happen upon that, most likely, it will be decided for you. And I don't think that takes us to good ends in our faith, in our mental health, in our ability to allot appropriate time to our more important commitments that we have in our daily life.
 
LA: Bonnie, thank you so much for speaking to us today. It's really been a pleasure.
 
MR: Yes indeed.
 
BK: Yeah thank you.

 

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