Today, all the talk has been about the start of the Six Nations, and, arguably, today is one of the most important games, Wales vs. England. Especially over here in the land that closest resembles heaven, rugby is the thing to talk about, and will be for the next few weeks.
After college in Bristol this morning, I decided to go home early to avoid the traffic coming over the bridge for the game, and on my way home, I stopped at the barbers.
I love going to get my hair cut. I always sit in the same chair in the barber shop, and the same lady cuts my hair (I’m a man of habit, you see). What’s really great is that I have a really good chat with her about all sorts of things… the weather, stuff going on in the local community, my faith, church, I listen to her opinions. From that comfy barber’s chair, I feel as though in those 15 minutes, she and I put the world to rights. I’m always aware that the other customers waiting are listening in, and often the other staff chip in too, on occasion.
She takes an interest in my life and what I do. She asks about church. She talks about faith and God. She asks me questions about Jesus. She mentions stuff to do with religion in the news. Today we talked about the price of oil and how good it is that petrol has come down, we talked about the local economy and how the new shopping centre in Newport will hopefully boost the reputation of the city, she talked about her weekend, her plans for watching the rugby, she talked about Charlie Hebdo.
Charlie Hebdo? Who the heck is that? Oh yeah, I remember…
Well, actually, she talked much more broadly than Charlie Hebdo. She talked about extremism, the events of the other week, Boko Haram, ISIS and the Jordanian Pilot.
We mulled it over and lamented over the events. We tried to come up with solutions to the problems. We couldn’t.
But then it dawned on me; talk is so cheap.
Talk is cheap, and it’s cheap because we put ourselves at the mercy of the media. Everyone was up in arms at the Charlie Hebdo attacks initially, but barely a week had passed by and the whole thing was forgotten. Then some tried to give a voice to those who had suffered at the hands of Boko Haram, and that lasted all but a few days. The other day, the Jordanian Pilot’s murder by ISIS was in the news. Today, it’s the six nations.
Ever since the rise of ISIS, I’ve been uncomfortable at how my concerns for the stuff that matters in the world have such a fleeting nature. The news just keeps coming, and it’s almost as though we’re taken on a newsround roller coaster every five minutes. One minute we’re despairing at atrocities around the world, pledging our solidarity and resolve to do something to make the world a better place. 30 seconds later it seems we’re cheering Wales at the start of the six nations.
And here’s where I come to talking about bandwagons. It’s so easy to get on a bandwagon. It’s equally easy to get back off it. I think there’s a challenge for us to carefully consider the news we consume. After considering news, we need to talk about bandwagons.
I feel that there are some bandwagons which are perfectly acceptable to get on and off as you please, such as the Six Nations.
But news like Charlie Hebdo, ISIS and all that other stuff… they’re not to be treated as bandwagons at all. So often, we treat that sort of news as some sort of sick, twisted form of popular culture. We can use and abuse it as we please, pushing our opinion, pushing our agenda, spouting hatred, making ourselves popular, gratifying our own selves so that we feel part of a community in a common cause… for all of five minutes. Then the next thing comes along and we toss these raw, humbling, horrifying realities away, like some sort of half eaten takeaway left by revellers on a drunken night out.
As a society, we have a huge moral responsibility in not just keeping up to date with news, but to not be controlled by the fashion of news stories. The call is, I suppose, to commit to thinking about, praying about and acting on serious news stories that need our voice, our action, and more than ever, our prayers.
Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre.
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