Yet, as I write, this impending disaster is hardly registering on news bulletins, and hasn’t appeared anywhere in my social media feed. Instead we continue to consume a steady diet of the latest outrage about Trump, controversy over Theresa May’s strategy for Brexit and a ubiquitous stream of celebrity news.
It’s understandable. We are conditioned to engage with well-known people on issues that directly affect us, rather than faceless masses suffering from complicated social-political problems far away. When we are already battling to distinguish true news from fake news (see Sarah Lothians’ culture column, p18) it’s difficult for the news that really matters to get an airing.
As editor of this magazine I face that dilemma myself. Covering on-trend topics such as Disney’s inclusion of a gay character in Beauty and the Beast (p17) and interviewing well-known Christians such as dance DJ Moby (p28) can create immediate engagement. But they shouldn’t squeeze out a willingness to challenge readers with serious and stretching content such as Krish Kandiah on God’s unfathomable nature (p34), and Dr Calvin Samuel’s excellent article on slavery and the Bible (p50).
I had been wondering whether or not to focus on the famine appeal in this editorial page. My answer came this morning in my Bible In One Year passages: Matthew’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000, and the Genesis account of the famine in Egypt that God used Joseph to avert. (And yes, if you’re following the same plan you’ll know that I’m already way behind!)
As Nicky Gumbel writes in his accompanying commentary: “If Jesus cared so much about temporary hunger, how much more must he care about the hundreds of millions of people in the world today who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. As followers of Jesus we need to act on behalf of the hungry today.”
As Christians we are called to be the first to step up and be a light in the world. You can contribute to the DEC East Africa appeal at dec.org.uk. But part of our calling also involves being distinctive in the way we consume and react to our 24-hour media culture, because in the end the world needs Good News, not fake news.