In the last 12 months, I have traveled to three countries outside the US – which is another way of saying that I am among the very blessed folk of the earth. International travel is a joy, albeit an exhausting, and often confusing, experience. Since the years we served overseas, I have come to enjoy, to rely on and to be informed by the unbalancing experience of encounter with other cultures, other people, other perspectives on how to approach and engage life and ministry.
Another reason I love travel is that I get to see what is happening in places that feature rarely, if ever, in news reports in the US. Nightly network news, a program that takes up 30 minutes on the schedule, actually includes only 22-23 minutes of news when advertising time is taken out of the equation. Time that might be devoted to international news is further crowded by regular programming of popular human interest features with names like “Making a Difference”, “On the Road”, “The Way It Was”, “Made in America” or “America Strong”. CNN – which stands for “Cable News Network” – actually airs less news in the US than the other major networks. One blogger, having watched 12 simultaneous hours of CNN, counted 5 unique stories reported. CNN assumes that people in the US watch them for short periods to get caught up with what’s happening – and perhaps, CNN decision-makers have decided that a) US viewers have a short attention span, and/or b) US viewers only want, or need, to hear about 5 news stories that day. These factors, coupled with the current climate of polarization and its impact on what networks or platforms people of different political views trust, and so choose to watch or read for their news, further decreases time that could be offered to stories from outside the US.
Thus, international news is generally hard to find on US networks and other media platforms, particularly if the story is a) quite complex or b) if programmers don’t see or understand the possible impact of the story on the key demographics sought by media outlets in the US, or c) is about a country, a region, or a people who are understood as not related to – and thus not interesting to – people in the US. To be sure, you can still find news of any region, country, or people in the world if you are willing to search – but you will not hear much about many places if you rely on large and popular media outlets.
This week, I share news from Kenya and Madagascar, two countries rarely featured on media news reports in the US, and from the church in both countries. To understand news at home, of home, requires understanding of other locales, other cultures, and other people. My posts this week are a small contribution to this end.
Cynthia Holder Rich introduced the “conversations on the current scene through a Gospel lens” of ecclesio.com five years ago. To date, over 200 conversations on issues facing the church or the church needs to face have been hosted on the site. Over 750 scholars, pastors, leaders, and activists have participated in these conversations. This post introduces another season. Cynthia currently serves with joy, gratitude, energy, intelligence, imagination and love as Pastor and Head of Staff of First Presbyterian Church, Findlay, Ohio.