I noticed an interesting phenomenon the other day: I only want to be told what I already know to be true. More specifically, I only want to hear the things I already think. It’s been a long time since I read a book that I didn’t know for sure I would like (a theology book anyway…I’m a little more forgiving of pop fiction) or ordered something from a menu that I hadn’t had (and liked) before. It’s a long-understood truism that the politically interested tend to watch and listen to the “news” programs that affirm their pre-existing beliefs. What I realized the other day, though, is that this phenomenon is true in every sector of my life.
I habitually (ritually? Even, God help me, religiously?) watch SportsCenter every morning…there’s just too many games to get to each night. When a team that I cheer for suffered a defeat last week, I realized something: I didn’t want to watch SportsCenter because they were going to tell me that my team played poorly. Now, I know that my team played poorly; I’m not in denial. I just don’t want to hear it. What I desire is to have some analyst come on and tell me why this last loss is actually a good sign for the future of my team, or how it can all be blamed on poor officiating. Even when I know something is true, I don’t find that that knowledge affects my desire for the information.
The opposite is true, too. When my team wins, I’ll watch hours of ESPN coverage. I’ll tune in to the cognitive wasteland that is sports talk radio. I can’t get enough: tell me more of what I want to hear. When the Heat won last year’s NBA Championship, I stayed up until the wee hours listening to the talking heads say the exact same thing over and over again. It was what I wanted to hear.
We tune out the things that we don’t want to hear, even when they’re the truth. Most perversely, we tune out the things we don’t want to hear, even when they will save our lives! The Gospel, i.e. the Good News, is just that: good. But we tune it out. We ignore it. We change the channel. We don’t want to hear it, because it counteracts our most cherished “truth”: that we are in control. The fact that it’s the truth doesn’t matter one iota: we don’t want it. What we eat up, the thing that we’ll stay up until the wee hours listening to, the thing that we can’t get enough of, is the Law. The fact that it is an accusation that will inevitably lead to our death isn’t a problem…it sounds so sweet to our ears! “You’ll be judged by the content of your character.” “God helps those who help themselves.” “What goes around comes around.” Preach it!
Mockingbird exists to counteract this kind of preaching; the preaching that comes from the world’s pulpit. The Gospel, despite its truth, must break through our barriers, through our channel changing, through the fingers we have jammed into our ears. We’ll sing the same song over and over again: It’s not up to you. You’re not in control. You’ll be judged by the character of another: Jesus Christ the righteous. God helps those who cannot help themselves. What comes around (salvation) is infinitely better than what goes around (sin). We’ll preach that.
With that, my time as Sports Editor of Mockingbird will come to an end. As some of you will already know, I’m off to serve as Editor-in-Chief of LIBERATE, the resource ministry of Tullian Tchividjian, a ministry that seeks to proclaim the same Gospel message as Mockingbird: God’s inexhaustible love to an exhausted world. I will continue to be a some-time contributor to Mockingbird, how could I not? Mockingbird has made me a better writer, a better thinker, and a better Christian, if such a thing existed. Thank you for all for reading, for your comments and support, and I’ll see you soon.