I saw an article headline the other day announcing how many police and council members had resigned when the town elected an African American female mayor. It said “when” but of course, we immediately assume there is a connection between the two statements and that it really meant “because.” Upon reading the article, though, a number of things did not seem to add up. My brother and sister and I did some digging and discovered that the woman had run on a platform of cleaning up corruption in the town government… and supposedly those who had quit had deleted all their computer files before resigning. Quite a different story than the one the headlines were planting in your head! But of course, what we discovered could have been even then only a tiny fraction of the truth. It seems pretty definite, however, that the headlines were extremely misleading.
And then the riots in Baltimore. The media did not tell us that there were six days with vast numbers of peaceful protestors before a relatively small number of rioters created havoc. They ignored the peaceful, law-abiding people and turned a small number of fires into “Baltimore is burning” as though we were having another Great Baltimore Fire. Did it work to enflame emotions and opinions and draw people’s attention? Of course it did. Commenters were up in arms, using a story that didn’t remotely describe the truth as support for their own personal opinions and beliefs. I read others commenting on how they would think twice before going to Baltimore, because the idea in their mind was one of a chaotic city, instead of one that wasn’t hardly any different than their own city, an hour away, that they don’t think twice of visiting regularly.
A few days ago, the death toll in Nepal topped 5000. (It’s now over 7,000.) Also that day, Saudi Arabia – one of the most powerful and influential nations in the Mid East – experienced a massive government changeover with far-reaching implications. That same day several world governments pulled back ambassadors to Indonesia because of executions. And yet, most if not all of the major news networks filled their front pages that day with political gossip of who did what, stories of how a professor flunked a class, what random cake bakers around the world did, and pages upon pages of what a small number of rioters in Baltimore did (still ignoring all the peaceful protestors). The result is that anyone visiting the news sites that day could easily have received the false impression that THIS is the most important news. And all the while, governments are changing and thousands of people are dealing with the loss of loved ones and everything they have.
I could bring up numerous other examples. One network is known for being conservative, and the others liberal… but the reality is that truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is something that the media (both network and social) rarely gets right. Truth is something that people rarely get completely right. And since all media is shared by people… well, there you have it.
In the Bible, when Jesus was on trial, Pilate said something very profound. He said, “What is truth?” I am sure that this statement arose from his years of sitting to hear opposing sides present vastly different accounts of the “truth.” Ironically, at the moment he said this, before him was standing the One who said, “I am the Truth.”
Why am I talking about this?
Because we, as Christians, believe that the Spirit of God is dwelling within us, and that we have communication with the One who knows all things. Right?
Why is it, then, that we are so gullible? Why does Facebook resound with Christians sharing stories of “miracle” photographs when a quick Google search will turn up the student who created it with Photoshop or video editing for a class assignment?
Why are Christians everywhere getting inflamed and up in arms at media stories that tell only a fraction of the truth?
Why are Christians allowing ourselves to be drawn into lengthy, gossip-filled, heated debates and arguments about things that – if we stopped to listen to the Holy Spirit – we would most likely discover we knew very little about? Why?
Father, teach us discernment and wisdom…