Paying attention in a remote control world

Meredith Flynn —  April 8, 2013

remote controlHEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

At most workplaces, the Bible would be an unusual topic for water cooler conversation. But that was exactly the idea behind History Channel’s recent miniseries “The Bible,” at least according to producing spouses Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

“The best-case scenario for us is that there’s an opportunity here for people to be discussing the Bible at the water cooler the day after this has aired,” Downey told before the premiere. “You know that seems so exciting that it just will stimulate conversation.”

The miniseries debuted last month to more than 13 million viewers, and seemed to keep most of that audience throughout its five-week run. But if it did provide water cooler conversation in offices around the country, it likely wasn’t the only topic that had people buzzing. The country is still embroiled in a same-sex marriage debate, heightened by the Supreme Court’s proceedings in March and with potentially landmark action on the docket for this summer.

Gun control is also at the forefront of our national consciousness, along with North Korea, the economy, political stalemate, college basketball and a royal baby (some are obviously more sobering than others). But all these concerns competed for our attention in the days leading to Easter, along with the urging – from Hollywood, of all places – to once again be amazed and energized by the Bible’s glorious narrative.  And by Jesus!

And yet, it’s likely that at most water coolers, talk of gun control or North Korea or a horrifying basketball injury weren’t connected to Jesus or the Bible, even if they shared headline space in some newspapers.

Consider one critic’s assessment of “The Bible” prior to its final episode. USA Today’s Robert Bianco wasn’t a fan of the series, and attributed its viewership only to a lack of religious programming on Easter Sunday. There’s an audience that wants faith-driven content, Bianco wrote, even though, “We’re a secular nation and no one is arguing for turning the entire weekend over to the celebration of one religion’s holiday.”

Because a whole weekend, even one that includes Good Friday and Easter Sunday, would be too much for one topic, one emphasis, one somber meditation.

It’s not just our “secular nation” that falls victim to a jumping bean-like attention span. Christians do, too. How often do we let an opportunity pass to inject biblical truth into a conversation about a current issue? How easy is to compartmentalize our conversations into “politics” and “religion” and “pop culture,” without talking about how our faith affects them all?

May God remind us to connect the dots. Let’s not be swept up in our channel-changing culture.

Meredith Flynn


Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.