A sabbath for the news cycle

Is there such a thing as a News Sabbath, and if so, should a news organization advocate observing it?

I realize that the biblical concept of the Sabbath has been adopted by all sorts of cultural movements. Many of them have good intentions and perhaps even hints of Bible truth. But in a society where a break from life with a spa day or an afternoon of shopping is considered a Sabbath, I want to be careful not to dilute something as rich and powerful as the real Sabbath.

I have discussed here WORLD’s approach to the Sabbath day, which stems primarily from the organization’s Presbyterian heritage. We treat our employees with care, and while we know that newsworthy things happen seven days a week, we try to avoid habitually treating every day the same way.

But our commitment to a Sabbath day goes beyond what we expect of our employees. We are happy to give our readers, listeners and viewers the opportunity to do so break up and rest from the consumption of news. That’s why we don’t post new content on our platforms on Sundays — no newsletters, no website updates, no podcast feeds — unless there’s a really important news event. (We publish some Sift reports on Sunday evenings in preparation for the early Monday morning Sift newsletter.)

It doesn’t help our web traffic numbers deter Sunday visitors, although to be fair, web traffic isn’t a huge driver of our business. I suppose some will find other news sources on Sundays and that’s a risk we’re taking by not producing news content for Sunday consumption. But we have a good conscience in avoiding unnecessary work on Sundays and posting content as much as the news business allows.

I understand that not all WELT readers practice Sunday as a Sabbath. I also understand that sometimes things get thrown into the Sabbath sanctifications that don’t belong there. I am not trying to argue that reading messages on the Sabbath violates the commandment to remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.

However, I have seen a tendency in my own life to try to maintain an illusion of control over my surroundings by keeping myself abreast of a 24/7 news cycle. Our illusion of control is one thing that our Sabbath observance is trying to dismantle. Perhaps we should consider whether the message is one of those things duly set aside on the Sabbath—a day set aside for worship and communion with the One who is truly in charge.

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