Too Much Information.
I'm not entirely sure this was ever envisioned by the framers of the first amendment when freedom to the press and freedom of speech were created. I'm not sure it was envisioned by the inventors of the internet, or cable tv, or email.
But we are inundated constantly with information. And depending on which sources we use for our information we read completely different "facts." Even within one publication we can have radically different portrayals of the truth. Or opinion - which has begun to substitute just fine for truth these days.
As a pastor, I face this when I have congregants reading different translations of scripture from vastly different sources and theological frameworks. While it provides and opportunity to talk about why these interpretations might be different, do we ever reach back and find out what the truth of the text is? Is there Truth to be found? or is it all a matter of interpretation?
Certainly this isn't a new problem. That's why throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition there have always been schools of thought that argued with one another. There is a reason that Jesus had to interact with Pharisees and Sadducees and Zealots and Essenes. They were all holding on to different pieces of the truth, and holding on to them so fast that they became the Truth for each.
We do this in the church. We do this in politics. We do this in schools. We do this everywhere. Because the idea that we can't fully grasp the Truth - that it is something that is bigger than us, is scary. We want black and white - truth and falsehood, good guys and bad guys. The in-between stuff is a mess and we don't want to live there.
In conversations with fellow pastors, we have discussed anecdotaly that folks tend to like morality sermons better than grace sermons. Because in morality and justification messages, the choice is clear - do this, don't do that. When we talk about love and forgiveness and grace, suddenly we are in the gray area... showing love to a murderer? having compassion for a drug addict? Witnessing someone transform their lives? it's messy, and hard and challenging, and we would much rather label people as good or bad. Even labeling ourselves as good or bad is easier than accepting messy grace.
|Photo by: memory_collector|
Recently, it was an email forward with pictures from the attack on Pearl Harbor reportedly taken by someone on Dec. 7, 1941. The email claimed that the film strip was only just recovered preserved from his "brownie camera" recently.
Snopes let me know: the pictures are real, the story is not. There was no way one person could have taken all of those pictures from so many different angles, plus, they are all navy archives photos and have been for quite some time.
What I have learned is that it is good to have some healthy skepticism in the face of information these days. Do a little bit of legwork. Ask yourself if it is believable. Check with a source that you trust. Be willing to dissect information to be able to find out what is propaganda and what is fact and what is opinion and what is just plain old story. Sometimes it's all wrapped up in the same piece of information - whether it is a bible devotion or an email forward or a segment on your favorite news program.
The world out there is a jumble of information. Be smart. Be informed. Don't take anything at face value.