Are you jaded? Skeptical? Fed up? Don’t know who or what to believe?
We live in a time and culture that has erased optimism. The result is that we question everything and infected with doubt. It’s a new day. Our communication is sarcastic, brash, harsh and lacking civility. It’s the advent of snarky.
When the reporters become salesmen
Few of us know what true investigative journalism looks like these days. The fabled names of Woodward and Bernstein are forgotten (and Bernstein himself these days is more a salesmen for a particular view than a reporter). Who do you listen to when the purveyors of information (that we all used to assume was just a simple communication of facts) are themselves jaded? No longer does it seem favorable to report information. These days it must be spun. In the communication wars between the MSM and President Trump, no one knows who is accurately telling any story. One fumes, the other tweets.
I recently ordered and am looking forward to reading Reforming Journalism which promises to:
“(1) lay out foundational principles of journalism, explaining why and how journalism ought to be done, (2) address practical, nuts-and-bolts issues such as interviewing subjects, structuring news stories, and responding to complaints, and (3) close with a historical overview of journalism in the United States. Throughout the book, Olasky points to the example of Christian journalists in China, who courageously continue a nearly three-thousand year history of news reporting in the face of government pressures. You will learn how to be a more discerning reader of news as well as a competent citizen-reporter in your own community.”
The death of argument
We can’t even argue anymore because someone will pull out a smartphone and look up the facts to what you’re arguing about. In the “old days,” we could argue about stuff, and the best arguer or most emphatic or articulate would carry the day – right or wrong. I guess it’s good that Google can tell you who won the Super Bowl in 2011 and not rely on our faulty memory. The fact-checkers have drunk the Kool-Aid of spin as much as anyone, however. No one is tolerant of dialogue and true debate. The antidote to a differing, well-reasoned, logical argument these days has become name-calling, noise and belittlement. It doesn’t matter that an opposing viewpoint makes good points. We can make their cogency irrelevant by our noise.
Rationality is dead because the noise we make today – or the well-reasoned position – is all forgotten tomorrow. We are cynical because it doesn’t seem we can remember what happened in the past – whether distant or earlier this year. 2019 saw horrendous abuse from the mainstream media, and yet at the close of the year, it’s drifted away from our collective memory. The saying goes, “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.” I think that’s where our collective what-aboutism comes from these days. Opposing sides condemn one another quickly, only to be reminded, “Oh yeah, what about when you did the same thing?”
We are cynical. You are cynical. Admit it. Confess it. But don’t stay there. In another blog called Are you cynical? I wrote, “When you think that the content that comes from you and your circle of friends is better than the content that comes from other sources, you are in danger of cynicism.”
Cynicism is dangerous about significant truth
This is especially sobering when you consider that some communication is deeply significant. Consider spiritual truths. If there is a God… if He has a will… if sin is real… THEN it’s vitally important to have right communication. We cannot afford to skeptically dismiss religious communication. We do so at our own eternal peril.
What is about us that we view communication from steams outside our own circle of trust as untrustworthy? Is it because of a track record of less-than-honest reporting, less-than-authentic preaching, less-than-reliable dependability?
Several years ago the United Methodists adopted a phrase: Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. I wasn’t a fan of the phrase because I felt then that it would be used to jettison scriptural truth while justifying human foible. However, I’m most definitely not a fan of close-mindedness. As a follower of Jesus, I love how He asked questions in response to questions. I love how He exposed hidden sin – going beyond mere actions to the motives of the heart. “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you…” And I am thankful for the admonition of scripture that encourages us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
An open mind and an open heart does not preclude using discernment and judgment on information/messages. In the realm of spiritual truth, we are urged throughout the scriptures to test and judge what we hear and measure it by truth and not by how it makes us feel. (Acts 17:11, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 Timothy 6:3-4, 1 John 4:1). We are urged to pray for openness – to truth:
“Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wondrous things from your instruction.”
Perhaps that’s the ultimate litmus of whether we embrace or reject messages in contemporary culture – by how they make us (or others) feel. If it makes us feel good, it must be right. If it makes us feel bad, it must be wrong. Feelings can’t be an adequate measure of truthfulness, however. We know that from other arenas of life. We don’t resist surgery because it makes us feel bad. A level of invasive cutting is needed for ultimate health, right?
Ask yourself: is it fun to be cynical? Is it energizing to be critical? Is it wonderful to shut other people down? To be intolerant of other views?
It’s not. Trust me. (But you probably can’t, because you’re cynical)
I want to encourage you.. get positive. As you progress toward and through a new year, please do some attitude surgery in your own life. Open your heart. Open your eyes. Pray for the well-being of those who think, talk and act differently than you. Consider that there just may be… truth.. out there. It’s not just an old mantra from the X-Files.
Be willing to adjust, think differently and deeply. Be respectful of those who disagree. Use kind discernment and wise discretion. When you must argue, do it with bold compassion and fearlessness. The truth is worth fighting for, after all. Not much else is.
Consider the kind of qualities that Jesus infuses into a person who follows him: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Name one of those things that turns you off. If you can, well, hello, cynic.
Cynicism will shrink your soul. It will cause your hope to atrophy (if you even remember how wonderful “hope” is). Cynicism will hinder relationships and generally make you a not-very-fun person.
Let’s all be less snarky, ok? Or… nah, that’s not possible. Nothing’s gonna change…