In a world deluged with information how do I find the facts? Conspiracy theories are chased around the internet resulting in adherents doing the most bizarre things. Click bate sensational headlines abound. Governments hide information or provide misleading statistics. Narrow echo chambers are created in which the same tired soundbites ping from wall to wall.
Are there ways to sort through the maze of voices? Or should I stick my head in the sand and let the world go by? Or just pray and read the Bible, news and the devil be damned?
I suggest there are a number of ways to come to a reasonably balanced understanding of the things that are happening in our world:
- Beware of any poorly documented conspiracy theory. I think this is one of the first places we lose our way. There are forces of evil trying their best to destroy and overthrow all that is good, sacred and meaningful. Many traditional and highly valued morals and ethics are being desecrated and outright attacked. But there are also forces of good at work in the world. Charities, churches, families, ethical and conscientious individuals. Community services, volunteer groups, medical care providers, law enforcement to name a few. And if you’re a Christian believer the ultimate good is a God who is reclaiming the whole realm of creation back to Himself through Jesus. This becomes the ultimate end in which “evil will be overcome with good”. Romans 12:21. Test any conspiracy theory from this matrix. Good will ultimately defeat evil. Defeatism and escapism are deadly worldviews.
- Don’t take news headlines at face value. Read carefully, looking for the facts not the sensations being sold. The facts sometimes come as admissions near the end when the journalist is forced to admit them to avoid being accused of fake news. There is such a thing as fake news, but there may may an abstract of truth even there. Be wise. Listen for hidden (and in these times not so hidden) agendas.
- Read to know what’s true, not only to find support for your politics or world view. Walk around the tree or the proverbial elephant and see (or feel) it from another angle. Try switching places with your opposite. How does it read to them? Especially do this when reading articles or books, or listening to podcasts or broadcasts you know you agree with.
- Closely related, don’t restrict yourself to an echo chamber where all you can hear is affirmation of your own foregone conclusions. This is easy to do, but dangerous.
- Cross examine your information. Look for confirmation from reputable sources. Is it designed to instill fear? Is it about money? Is it hopeful?
These are just a few ideas. No one can no with absolute certainty that they have it all right. But it is possible to point ourselves and others in a good and hopeful, albeit realistic direction if we determined to be honest. For believers, faith, hope and love should be our guiding premise. Let the dark domain do it’s worst. It cannot extinguish the Light. Study history. Look for patterns. At the darkest moments light has intervened time and time again. Study scripture. But interpret scripture and history with the hermeneutics of Love, to borrow from N.T. Wright. 7.8 billion people inhabit the earth. God is not willing that any should perish. Like Jerusalem of old he would gather them together “as a hen gathers her chicks under the shelter of her wings.”