ADVERTISING
 
Friday, February 23   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
Is the sexual exploitation of women an issue in your city?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Calum Samuelson
 

Empathy in the information age

We should recognise that breadth of awareness is not evidence of the depth of our engagement.

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTHOR Calum Samuelson 10 APRIL 2017 17:08 h GMT+1
wet, drops, Photo: Sandeep Swarnkar (Unsplash, CC)

The idea of studying with a newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other still holds weight as a paradigm for Christian engagement with culture, but is increasingly becoming outdated practically. Long gone are the days when one could expect to be up to date by simply reading the Sunday paper. The fact is that news is now distributed by the hour, with new updates only a click away. In addition to the immediacy of news, there is an overwhelming variety of issues to be concerned about… prison violence in Brazil, the murder of Kim Jong-nam, and the imminent extinction of the vaquita porpoise.



The fact is that social media and all its online derivatives represent a leap in communications technology not seen since the invention of the printing press.[1] The increasing immediacy and variety of news raises important questions for Christians: How much time should we devote to keeping up with current events? How should we respond to events that are genuinely foreign to us (whether geographically, culturally, or ideologically)? How can we be loving, compassionate followers of Christ if we are unaware of the ways that the world around us is hurting? I would like to briefly offer some thoughts about these concerns.



First, we should remember that empathy is absolutely vital for the healthy functioning of families, communities, and societies. The Incarnation of Jesus can be understood as the archetype of empathy[2] and thus necessitates the need for all Christians to enter into the pain of others to some degree. But not all Christians are equally endowed with the capacity to empathise. This is not a bad thing, of course, for we recognise that different gifts are given to different members of the Body for the benefit of the whole. Nonetheless, less-empathetic people may still feel pressured to respond somehow (a comment on Facebook?) to the daily flood of sobering news, and in so doing can actually use the pain of others as a means to an end. The habit of ‘scrolling’ through negative news on social media can even act as a numbing agent for one’s own pain or guilt.[3] While we could debate the correct understanding of ‘empathy’, we cannot discount the incredible way social media is increasingly acting as a vehicle for news. We should think carefully about the implications of this in relation to empathy and compassion.



Jesus was obviously aware of current events[4] and the hurts of the common person. And although he is often remembered for his selfless compassion on the crowds, he also had limits. For instance, we read in several places how Jesus retreated in order to pray and rest. More than just placing limits on the time he gave to the people, Jesus was also selective with how he used his time and energy. This is seen in Mark 1:38, where Jesus says, ‘Let us go somewhere else’, seemingly ignoring those who were seeking him. As Christians, we must strive to understand both how and how often we should act compassionately based upon our giftings, resources, and calling.



Second, we must understand our own giftings in relation to our community and local context. Here, 2 Corinthians 8-9 is instructive. Paul asked both the church in Macedonia and the church in Corinth to help the Christians in Jerusalem via financial gifts. Despite the geographic separation, there was a shared sense of identity that gave context to Paul’s request and thus increased the sense of responsibility. But vitally, Paul emphasises the importance of sincerity and cheerfulness; reluctance and compulsion is probably a sign of the wrong motives.



No matter how hard we try to stay informed about events in the world, we will inevitably be confronted by ‘important’ stories about which we have little or no context. Although perhaps a source of anxiety for some, this can actually be a great opportunity for Christians to respond in humility and demonstrate a willingness to learn. However, this aim will be fruitless if we as Christians are also unaware of, unengaged with, or disinterested in important issues in our local communities, regions, and countries. There is truth to the saying, ‘Charity begins at home’, not least because this is where we have the greatest responsibility to help others directly.



While the stream of news may seem unlimited, our capacity to genuinely engage has clear limits. When seeking to discern ‘how much is too much?’, we should recognise that breadth of awareness is not evidence of the depth of our engagement.



Ultimately, empathy that doesn’t actually lead to some form of compassionate action is unfulfilled and incomplete—benefitting neither involved party—so we should always consider the connection between our awareness and our actions.



Calum Samuelson, MPhil in History of Theology. Works for the Jubilee Centre.



This article first appeared on the Jubilee Centre website and was republished with permission.



 



[1] For a brief history of social media see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393.x/full.



[2] Hebrews 4:15.



[3] For an interesting comparison see http://reason.com/blog/2017/03/01/moral-outrage-is-self-serving.



[4] See Luke 13:4 for an interesting example.


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Empathy in the information age
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

 
Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest

About 70 people from European countries met at the Younger Leaders Gen gathering in Hungary (19-22 October) to discuss the challenges of the church in the continent and build partnerships. Photos: Evi Rodemann and Jari Sippola.

 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
VIDEO Video
 
A marriage story A marriage story

The  great love story for everyone.

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Creation Care and the Gospel, in France Creation Care and the Gospel, in France

The conference drew about 90 delegates from across Europe. Scientists, theologians, activists reflected together on the theme “God’s Word and God’s World”.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.