Yesterday, JTR posted an excellent short piece about the apparent ongoing efforts of our administration to exploit and exacerbate the tensions and divisions that alienate one American from another.
To me, Bill Whittle’s video seems to be a masterful ten-minute proof text for George Zimmerman’s innocence, and for the late Trayvon Martin being something other than simply “a sweet unarmed black kid”–regardless of what the President of the United States would like us to believe.
But then–does my opinion really count? I am after all a white conservative Christian. So of course I want to believe the best of the white defendant, and already think the worst about the black victim. Right? If Bill’s viewing audience is primarily made up of people like me (and like himself)…then he’s just preaching to the choir, right?
By the same token, aren’t all those liberal commentators who are screaming for blood and vengeance and mistrials just saying the words that their constituency believe already?
If you’re only saying what your readers/listeners think to begin with, why bother?
Don’t we all go looking for the opinions which will corroborate our own viewpoints? Are we ever swayed by the persuasive argument of a passionate advocate for one side or the other? Should we be?
In the first century, a man named Paul traveled through Asia Minor preaching that someone called Jesus from Nazareth, who allegedly had died and risen from death, was the Messiah that the Jewish people were awaiting. In the city of Thessalonica some Jews, as well as Greeks, believed him. But other Jews accused Paul of treason against Rome (because he was encouraging allegiance to a different ‘king’).
Paul left in a hurry.
His next stop was Berea, where the Jews
“…were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.”
(Acts 17:11-12 NLT–emphasis mine)
So let’s recap that simple paragraph, and see if there is anything to be learned:
- The Bereans were open-minded and listened eagerly;
- They checked Paul’s teaching against their accepted authoritative source material, to see if he was accurate;
- After listening AND fact-checking, they were persuaded to believe his teaching.
I think that all of us would do well to approach any piece of communication in this way:
1) Consciously set aside your knee-jerk reaction (“I totally agree!” or “He/She is absolutely wrong!”).
2) Check every fact you possibly can with a variety of–preferably impartial–sources. (In other words, don’t check a conservative blogger’s facts just from other conservative blogs.)
3) Assume that you do not know everything about the issue–unless you’re the State’s expert witness! Be willing to consider that you might be wrong, if only in a small way.
4) If you’re a God-follower, pray! Pray for wisdom and discernment, for humility, and for Truth to prevail, even if the Truth will prove unpalatable to you personally.
One minor case in point: I’ve hunted the web for information about the ingredients that make up “lean”–Bill Whittle made quite a point of saying that the beverage and candy Trayvon had purchased were two ingredients of this hip hop drug cocktail, which induces euphoria and extreme lethargy.
In fact, the cocktail (more often called “purple drank”) is usually made with Sprite and Jolly Ranchers (they dissolve easily and add flavor), and served over ice. This is beside the point, however, since the main–and only narcotic–ingredient is a strong cold medicine containing promethazine and codeine. In the absence of that key component, it was probably libelous for anyone to insinuate that Trayvon Martin was planning on making the drug cocktail, merely because he had bought soft drink and candy.
Screen shots of Trayvon’s text messages on his phone DO reference the drug “Lean.” Still, correlation doesn’t prove causation, does it?
Mr. Whittle was asking us to look at the facts from another angle, and that is beneficial. But after all the “facts” are on the table, it is the responsibility of each individual to check those facts and come to his or her own conclusions.
It doesn’t matter how trustworthy the source is, check it yourself. It could be your spouse, your best friend, your pastor or your university professor telling you something. And each one may be wholeheartedly sincere and without agenda, other than to convince you of what they believe to be true. (On the other hand, they may be forwarding junk e-mails about free iPads.)
Don’t fall into the trap of prejudging any issue before you have given it careful personal consideration. (Remember: prejudice is not a ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ problem.)
If we only listen to those with whom we already agree, then we are really no better than those about whom the apostle Paul said:
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.”
(II Timothy 4:3 NLT)