Last week’s attack on worshipers in a Mosque in New Zealand sent waves of shock and outrage across the globe. As those waves subsided, a secondary response on social media was for some to call out Western news outlets for not giving equal time to recent attacks on Christians in Africa. What makes an attack on Muslims newsworthy, but not an attack on Christians?
The “low hanging fruit,” of course, would be to accuse the mainstream news media of a an anti-Christian bias. It would be naive to assume that Western culture is not biased against Christianity, at least to some degree. Popular culture in the West is a spiritual teenager, and Christianity is the Mother of Western culture. Like any teenager, the West believes its Mother is a lost cause, an out of touch control freak, who is an embarrassment any time She speaks. Those denominations that have tried to prove that, no, Mom is actually relevant, cool, have had little (if any) success. Any parent who has ever tried to look cool in front of their teenagers knows what a lead balloon that invariably turns out to be.
I cannot think of one instance when one of my kids (two in their late teens now, and one in his 20’s) has cited my wife or me in a conversation with their friends — unless it was an example of how uncool they thought we were. Teenagers mention their parents as little as possible, so it should come as no surprise that this giant adolescent called Western culture avoids talking about its Christian heritage.
The other thing at play, however, is proximity. If a gunman walked into a Christian church in any major city in North America or Europe and started live streaming the slaughter of worshipers, it would be all over the news. People are much more concerned about events in their own backyards than about what’s going on somewhere else. It’s only logical that media outlets are going to focus attention on people and events in their particular corner of the world, because that’s what their public is most interested in, and public interest is what pays the bills.
One benefit of social media is that it has made the world a smaller place. Perhaps as this technology continues to shape our worldview, we will understand that our backyard extends to every country, every continent.
In the Gospel, Christ teaches me that I have to love my neighbor as myself. The Church’s interpretation of this passage is not that I have to love my neighbor the same way that I love myself; it’s far more radical than that. I am called to love my neighbor as part of my “self,” an extension of my own being. That means that my neighbor’s pain is my pain as well. And the Church is quick to remind us that everyone is my neighbor, regardless of where they live, or what they believe.
Compassion for all people — an ancient Christian idea. Listen to your Mother, folks; she knows what she’s talking about.