Not Even the People App Is Safe

I have the app for People magazine. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I read it every day. I read it before the real news, just after I’ve checked my email and Facebook. What can I say? Life can be intense and People is like potato chips for the brain – pure junk, but so good. I will claim the higher ground that we don’t actually subscribe to People magazine – that would be a clear endorsement of the celebritainment industry. (We do, however, subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, as does my awesome, fully-tenured English professor sister who claims it helps her keep up with the cultural milieu of her students, or something like that.)

So I read the People app for pure escapism. I love the gossip. I love the dresses. I love the candid shots of beauties coming out of the grocery store with no makeup on looking better than I do at my most fancy. It takes my mind off things like how many Easter flowers we need to order this year, and what will that late-coming diagnosis for a dear parishioner reveal, and how late do we let the homeless guy sleep in the doorway.

And there I am, one afternoon, at home in the comfy chair in the fifteen minutes between coming home from work and leaving to pick up my child, scrolling through the People app. Aw, Ben Affleck says Jennifer Garner is the best wife ever. Man, that Beyonce can wear an outfit. Oh, and here’s a nice little tidbit about a Hollywood producer. Is he in trouble? Messing with his leading lady? Screaming at assistants? No, he’s saving the world.

That is just not okay. I do not read the People to be inspired by people changing their lives. I do not read the People app to be reminded that there is horrifying poverty in the world. I do not read it to have some beautiful Brazilian girl who lives in a garbage dump staring at me from some photograph. That is not part of the escapism.

So much for my reverie into the world of beauty and glamour. Back to suffering and pain and injustice. Because here’s this guy who was a successful Hollywood producer, who was on location somewhere and saw children living in garbage dumps. He gave up Hollywood and started a non-profit to help these people. I read the story, and do I give money to his non-profit? No. I just feel guilty.

I don’t know what to do about the crushing poverty in the world (some of which is in the U.S.) I am familiar with the story of the starfish washing up on the beach, and the man throwing them back one by one, and the observer telling him he can’t save them all and what difference does it make, and the man responding that it makes a difference to this one. Every time I hear that story (sadly, more than should be in sermons and children’s messages in worship) I want to shout, “But who’s figuring out why all the starfish are washing up on the shore in the first place?”

There’s charity and there’s justice, and we need both. And maybe , with all my first-world problems, I need more justice and a little less escapism. But the app was free, so I’m not going to give it up. Not just yet.