When President Kennedy was assassinated almost 40 years ago, Walter Cronkite interrupted "As the World Turns" with the tragic announcement.
Pastor Gene Boutellier climbed the tower of his Fresno church, and began pulling the bell rope. Much later, exhausted from his tolling, he descended and found the sanctuary full of weeping people. Tear-streaked faces turned upward, wondering what he would say.1 The scene was repeated the following Sunday in virtually every church in the nation. People needing hope turned to their pastors. Preachers of the generation called it "The Sunday with God."
When President Kennedy's son died in a plane crash last year, the news media climbed their towers and sounded the alarm. After witnessing a week of non-stop coverage, pastors ascended their pulpits wondering, What should I say? Should I say anything at all?
And if they're like me, they wondered, How do I preach to the endless tide of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, celebrity deaths, and political intrigue? And why does this seem to be happening so often?
Preaching at the speed of satellite
I watched the famed low speed Bronco chase from a Holiday Inn in Tallahassee, Florida. Returning home from a week-long vacation, I had turned on the television to see what my congregation might be talking about. What I found was a major shift in the way news is processed and presented.
With their interminable reportage of O.J. Simpson's murder trial, the networks discovered an insatiable public appetite for the mindless repetition of scanty facts. With the proliferation of satellite news channels, tragedies once distant now unfold without interruption in our living rooms. And senseless acts, once given some context by those reporting them, are increasingly ...