Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Tangent

I’m about to go off on a tangent…so brace yourself.

It isn’t often that I get political or even controversial on this blog…Its just not the forum I choose to use for that sort of thing. I'm not even going to get overly political or controversial NOW...its just that I have something on my mind.

I hope you will indulge me on a non-craft platform for a moment.

But my husband asked me an interesting question the other day and it has me thinking about…well…a lot of things.

The Bible has some fairly stark references to “false teachers.”

Matthew 7:15,16 0- Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits....

Acts 20:29-31 - For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves . Therefore watch…

2 Peter 2:1 - But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

2 Peter 3:16,17 - as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;

Colossians 2:8 - Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

All of these are specifically warnings to Christians about the false teachers who claim to be Christian…a warning for believers.

Last week, my husband, doing research on this topic of false teachers, asked me who I thought some false teachers of our time might be. Now, the conversation with my husband about who exactly these false teachers may be went in a direction I won’t actually put up here. It is controversial to some and largely irrelevant to the point I want to make.

BUT my husband's question got me thinking about the debate held in the press over the debt ceiling and other political issues, about the last election, about the upcoming election…and I thought, this advice to beware of false teachers is a good principle in general, especially in these times.

During the last election, I was shocked at how little people actually knew about the candidates. They could tell you everything they had heard on the news, or read in a newspaper, seen on Facebook, Twitter, or some other on-line site, and what their friends thought, their preacher said…but they were surprisingly unarmed with facts. They didn’t know about experiences, voting records, the history of the candidate in their respective other jobs, families, public offices, etc. What they knew is what they had been told by the press and their friends.

See, the majority of "news" is one big Opinion’s column laced with facts. The STORY isn’t enough to get us to buy papers, or subscriptions or to follow one news channel over another. We, as a culture, have been groomed to respond to shock, sensationalism, high emotion, intrigue, gory details…if you doubt that, consider the rise of “reality” entertainment. The most shocking shows get the highest ratings and make stars out of their subjects.

Much of the news has gone the same way – it is no longer unbiased fact recording. There has to be a POINT, an ANGLE. Anything else is just too boring for us to pay attention. And because it is no longer unbiased on most fronts, its important to consider it with a bit of critical thinking. I’ve lamented before that critical thinking is a skill we no longer have as a culture. Back when I was in high school, we were taught to dissect the things we read and look for bias or motive on the part of the author. I’m not sure that the skill is still being taught. Either that or we have collectively forgotten about it in our age of information overload.

I’m reminded of an article I was sent by somebody telling me the horrors of using a particular set of products for my kids. The referenced data in the article was astounding. I was ready to throw things in the trash, write letters, be angry, get indignant, demand my rights be defended.

A small note at the bottom of the charts and pictures indicated where the data had come from in the form of a link. I clicked on the link.

Imagine my surprise to find that the data was over 3 years old…and, via more thorough research, found that the issue was exaggerated in the first place, that test data for one kind of test had been extrapolated to “prove” a completely different condition, and that the small risk that DID exist at the time had been mitigated through different manufacturing processes and more stringent controls. In short, the very small issue that existed was blown out of proportion in the first place and had since become a non-issue. But here was this current article, with old data and a very biased opinion about safety for my kids…and it had me all worked up! Do you see where I'm going with this?

I’ve no envy for any of the political candidates entering the arena in the new election year. I think it’s going to be an awful lot like a gladiatorial battle – bloody and brutal and only s/he with the biggest weapon and the most prowess with a kill will be left standing. Just to be clear I believe that big weapon will be the backing of the media, money to throw at every problem, and skill (or a staff with skill) in social media. The kill, of course, will be the complete obliteration of somebody’s career, lambasted in the press for some small thing blown out of proportion, maligned by popular culture for not being the popular one…it all seems rather like Jr. High or High School, doesn’t it?

I read an article about how the Department of Defense is investing millions of dollars in a project to study the spread of information and misinformation using social media. You can read it HERE.

The implications are pretty significant…if they know HOW to spread information in the most effective manner, don’t think they won’t use it. I don’t mean to go all conspiracy theory on you, but this could be the easiest way to propagandize significant events and issues…and exert some form of biased influence on the masses. I won’t even get started on how the largest portion of the population using these resources are young people.

I’m reminded of the Healthcare Bill that we all know about from the blessed and almighty media. I seriously wonder how many of the legislators who voted on the initiative (for or against) actually had any idea what was IN it...there were 2074 pages in the thing! Many of those voting admitted that they didn’t read the entire thing before voting. Today, you can go read lots and lots of “summaries” about what’s in it. But when they voted, there was no such thing. Its astounding that our leaders felt they were qualified to vote on this legislation without actually reading it.

It’s a bit like signing the contract on a new car without reading it.

Have we become that culture? Have our leaders become so careless (or arrogant? or pressured? or rushed?) that they will sign their names on a document of such weight and controversy without actually taking the time, insisting upon the necessary time, to read its content?

All of this is to say pretty much one thing: be careful where and how you get your information. As we prepare to enter the new election year, and we are constantly fed media bits and bites about our local, state and national leadership, remember to step back a bit and consider things carefully.

When you base your future (and that of your city, county, state and country) on these decisions about who to elect to government office and which taxes you support or don’t, which things need to be laws and which things should be drilled into American consciousness as sensible, know the facts.


Do your research.

Look for opinions wildly divergent form your own and really hear them with an open heart and mind.

Dig deeper than headlines and commercials.

Look beyond Facebook and Twitter for information.

And remember just because you saw it on the internet, news, blog, newspaper, whatever, it doesn’t mean it’s the unbiased truth.

Thank you, and good night.

Peace, ya'll!


Rachel said...

Agreed, wholeheartedly. Teaching critical thinking to my college freshmen is one of the main objectives of the courses I teach (Composition and Language & Composition and Literature, both core required classes at my university. I cannot tell you how difficult it is to drum into my students the importance, the NECESSITY of vetting sources, considering where and from whom their information is coming. They've grown up in this era of information overload, where, you're right, "news" is entertainment. These are issues I think about A LOT, issues that keep me up at night! It's imperative that our young people learn how to research and evaluate and weigh information because that's what it takes to be an informed, responsible citizen in a democracy. Yeah, I could rant about this all day! lol
Thanks for putting this out there. It's something we all need to think about, care about, spend time and energy on. Sound bites do not equal knowledge. Sound bites do not make one informed. Sadly, that seems to be all anyone makes time for these days...

MaryC said...

I hear you, sister! I couldn't add a thing.

Kai said...

Thank you! Now, how to get everyone to read THIS?