I’m a news junkie. I’ll admit it.
My wife first realized what kind of junkie she married when she caught me channel surfing through the concluding moments of the network broadcasts.
“Good night, John (click) “Night, Peter. (click) Later, Dan.” I said, pronouncing my nightly benedictions.
“Did I hear you talking to someone?” she asked.
“Oh, just saying goodnight to the guys,” I said pointing to the rolling credits on the TV.
“Friends of yours?” she asked.
“Never mind, I don’t think you’d understand.”
Despite the fact that I’m a news junkie, I remain somewhat discriminating in the junk I’ll digest.
For instance, I won’t watch the coverage of the Peterson Murder Trial. Fortunately, my local news carrier begins coverage with a musical jingle. This is my warning that they are about to discuss the latest, meaningless detail in the trial. The jingle is my cue to switch channels.
But as much as I try to avoid the coverage, a CNN Internet headline got my attention this past week.
The headline read — Peterson to lover: I lied…but I’m not evil.
The story quotes Peterson on tapped phone calls to Amber Frey saying, “I lied to you … but I’m not an evil person.”
The quote got me thinking about how much most of us would like to believe that about ourselves – “I lie, but I’m not evil.” Or, “I steal, but I’m not evil.” Or, “I’m unfaithful, but I’m not evil.”
Aside from the circus atmosphere these news stories generate, I think many of us may admit that we avoid such stories because it scares us how much capacity we all hold for evil.
When we look into the all-American faces of people like Peterson and now Mark Hacking, it makes us ask some difficult questions. How much really separates us from being the nice guy our neighbors think we are and being someone really horrific? We secretly wonder what it would take for us to go to the “dark side.”
Scott Peterson and Mark Hacking both seem so normal – so like much like us. And the more they appear like us — middle class, white, Christian, yuppie — the more we become both attracted and repelled to the news coverage.
Yet we watch because we are determined to find some assurance that we could never be like them – yet we sense that we could be.
In the Christian tradition, Jesus solidified this truth by detonating a seismic sounding that shook the foundations of the religious world with his “You’ve heard it said” sayings voiced in the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” It was there on the hillside that he spoke of the sins of murder, lust, and hate first being committed in your heart.
“You’ve heard it said that you shouldn’t murder. But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” He was teaching that hurtful words will always precede murder.
“You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t commit adultery,’ but I say to you that what you think in your heart about another person is the same thing.” He was saying that adultery always begins in a deeper level of breaking a trust.
“You’ve heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, Do not resist an evil person. And if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also.” He was saying that if you remove the confrontation element, violence has little chance to escalate
While the nightly news will forever be dedicated to showing us the faces of evil in the likes of peoples such as Scott Peterson or Mark Hacking, we must never grow complacent in finding it in ourselves too. For in complacency, it finds it’s most fertile ground.