Inspired by the example of the early church in Acts 13:1-3, some members of our congregation fasted in the month of July. I fasted from all forms of political commentary: editorials, news shows that come on after 7:00 PM, political blogs, and the like. I did watch the local and national evening news and allowed myself to read straight news articles in printed newspapers or online. My goal was to remain an informed citizen but stop being overly obsessed with politics and do away with the occasional feelings of rage and helplessness that go with being a political junkie in a polarized age.
Well, it's August 1, so this morning I looked in on some of the TV shows and web sites I'd abstained from over the past month. I didn't learn anything new, but I did feel my blood pressure rising as I read.
Who needs that?
Jesus said, "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness." Jesus was issuing a warning against greed. Looking at your neighbor's goods with predatory gleam empties the soul of virtue. It also stands to reason that if our eyeballs continually rove over angry and conspiratorial text, in time we'll become angry and conspiratorial people.
The spiritual discipline of fasting is not about weight loss or depriving oneself of life's little pleasures. Fasting is an exercise in discernment. Is what we're exposing ourselves to bringing out the best in us?
I'm not saying that there's no reason to be upset. There are many things to be upset about! "If you aren't angry you aren't paying attention," goes the slogan. My point is that the facts are reason enough to get upset without stoking those feelings even further with voices of outrage. Be informed; act purposefully, but don't obsess about anything, especially politics. A Dutch theologian named Harry M. Kuitert once wrote a book titled "Everything Is Politics, but Politics Is not Everything." I haven't read the book, but I have taken the title to heart!