Friday, July 15, 2011

Ask RC: What are we to make of the Casey Anthony decision?

Nothing. A little girl died. She might have been murdered. It might have been an accident. It might have been somewhere in between. Her mother may be a murderer, or she may merely be a slightly more dramatic sinner than most of us. She came by her sin naturally, inheriting it from her parents, just like the rest of us. Her verdict may have been a mistake, a travesty of justice, a regrettable inevitability, or the right thing. I don’t know, and I suspect, neither do any of you.

It is a sad and sordid tale, whatever happened. No one should and I, as the father of five of them, never would want to diminish the horror of the death of a little girl. That said, the thing that most interests me in this whole media event is what it tells us about us that it has become such an event. Little children have died for millennia. In our own day thirty five hundred of them die every day, on purpose through the evil of abortion. In both instances there is no flotilla of satellite trucks beaming images into millions of living rooms. In both instances the wire services have not filled our newspapers with the latest information. What’s the difference?

What has changed is technology. Neil Postman, in his classic work, Amusing Ourselves to Death, argued that before the advent of the telegraph there was no such thing as “the news of the day.” There was no category for this form of information- descriptions of events, unlikely to ever directly impact us, in distant lands. The information we sought in times past was information that intersected with our own lives.

Now some might argue that this is a rather narrow and selfish perspective on things. Doesn’t opening the windows of the world onto the suffering of others encourage the virtues of empathy and compassion? Our second instance proves otherwise. It is not a mistake that we are called to love our neighbor. Empathetic feelings about a tragedy far, far away, whether it be a little girl’s death, or an earthquake in Japan, can’t run that deep, given that we aren’t in the least jolted to see the coverage we are watching be interrupted by a pitch to switch which brand of dish soap we use. It is faux empathy, faux compassion, just enough to persuade us that in feeling bad we have actually done something.

Real empathy requires real relationships with real people, with real neighbors. Were we invested in those closest to us, our families, our neighbors, our pew neighbors we would live real lives. Maybe, just maybe, if Casey Antony’s neighbor had not been too busy tuning into whatever captured the nation’s attention three years ago, maybe things might have turned out differently. Maybe we should all take up our cross, follow Jesus, and let the dead bury the dead. Our neighbors, and their unborn children are dying. That it’s not being covered on the news is how you can tell it’s where you’re supposed to be.


Zeke199 said...

RC - Before the Casey Anthony case I believed exactly as you did. During the time this case has persisted, and especially so during the past few months, I've arrived at a different belief which I believe is most Godly.

While it is true that technology (if improperly managed) can lead to faux relationships & empathy, information is information, and if God places a tug/touch on a Christian's heart, it should be acted upon. You cited the Japan earthquake - consider the tremendous amount of prayer & Christian relief which occurred, largely due to TV & Internet images of the destruction. You cited the Anthony case - consider how much additional prayer was marshalled for that suffering family due to the media's obsessive coverage of it.

With all due respect, it's far too easy & somewhat intellectually dishonest to decry technology, without simultaneously considering its benefits as cited above, and its help to bring the Gospel to the entire world. Faux relationships at times, yes, but throw the baby out with the bath water - Heavens NO!!!

R.C. said...


Thanks for the thoughtful comment. As I recall, however, I was decrying faux relationships, not technology. Noting that technology may make it easier for us to have faux relationships is not decrying technology.

Zeke199 said...

RC - Thank you for clarifying. My reading was that technology was voiced as the issue, but I see your intended point as predominant, so my apologies if I perceived it other than you intended. I believe we're reasonably well aligned.

The point is whatever God brings to our attention must be brought to Him in prayer to determine what (if any) action is our responsibility. Individually we can't be an infinite source of empathy for all others - that clearly is God's job, and often through the church in aggregate manner, especially far away from us.

The same concerns can apply however regarding Facebook, social media, e-mail, and other forms of virtual communication (or virtual relationships). These can spread us too thin to have deep & practical personal ability to provide genuine assistance to those near us, given our limited time & resources.

The Bible says better is a friend nearby than a brother far away, and this implies near enough in proximity to do more than send an e-mail or Facebook message to "be warmed & filled." Practical help requires practical proximity, but the assist can be scored via long-distance prayer & follow-up as God leads & equips.

Have a blessed day in Him!