The article made me do it

Have you seen the video of the doctor distracting a baby while he gives the kid a couple shots? It’s cute, right?

A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook the other day, and after watching it I left the comment: “So precious.”

In response, a total stranger commented: “Not precious at all – Please educate yourself for your children’s sake.” Attached to the statement was a link to an article on the horrors of vaccination and why people should never vaccinate their children.

Normally something like this wouldn’t bug me, but just a few days earlier I had received some links from a friend regarding various reasons why Ray and I shouldn’t circumcise our boy(s). Now, I have no ill feelings towards my friend, and I appreciate her concern for the wellbeing of our future children (I actually agree with the scriptural portions of her point), but these two occurrences really got me thinking about how mighty the article has become in American culture.

Make room for a new king

Next to Jesus, Google is king in our home, and I’m the one responsible for making it that way.

  • If I want to know how to edit videos better, I’ll google it.
  • If I need natural solutions to ward off malaria-ridden mosquitoes, I’ll google it.
  • If my gas is smelling especially putrid… hold on, just plug your nose for the 0.46 seconds it will take Google to give me a diagnosis, and we’ll be good to go.

article blog

There are millions of articles and random folks out there in Cyberland ready and willing to tell me how to live my life, and I’m totally open to receive most of what they throw at me. Upon reading an article, well usually it’s more like skimming an article, I feel like I’ve become a semi-expert on the matter, so not only does it become a belief that I instantaneously hold personally, but anytime someone asks for help in that area, I’ve got the answer for them too. Just read this article and it will make you think like I do.

The problem is, sometimes I’m wrong.

How many times have you seen an article saying that some research institute has discovered that a certain food causes cancer causing you to promptly boycott the product until a few weeks later the “just kidding” response is released and we’re told that the food actually helps ward off cancer? (The soy controversy had me all kinds of confused.) How many people had you convinced before the “just kidding” article that they should also stop buying that particular item of food? Or how many times had you shared a video or article on Facebook about a certain event only to have someone comment, “Um, yeah, that’s fake” or “That never happened,” and then you felt salty for disseminating a lie?

Here’s a question for you: do you feel saltier for sharing it or saltier for believing it?

A quick detour from the information superhighway

Lest this rant get out of hand, let me get to my point. I have two:

Point 1: Sure, cruise the information superhighway, but remember that you have people in the car with you who have real life experiences as well.

I’ve seen many of my friends go through cycles where they get frustrated with how connected to technology people have become these days, and they get rid of Facebook for a week or a month (the hardcore ones do it for a year or more), all in the name of pressing in to be more relational. I wish that people would do the same when it came to the dissemination of information. Don’t send me an article and just tell me that what I believe is wrong, but walk with me, teach me, show me what you believe and let me come to my own conclusions. If you share an article with me, please share it within that context. I’m not going to do something just because your article told me to. As my friend Lisa once said, just as anyone can find any scripture to back up any belief they have, articles can serve the same purpose.

Ray and I went to visit our neighbors for dinner a while back, and the wife asked me where I learned to make chapati. I told her I googled it and found some videos on YouTube. She looked a bit bewildered and responded, “I’m right next door, why don’t you just come over and let me teach you?” That’s not the first time I’ve gotten that kind of response, which is one of the things I love about Kenyan culture. It’s all about relationship. Kenyans can share information with one another, but they do it within the context of relationship. Wouldn’t it be cool to teach kids more about the importance of primary sources so instead of doing a Google search on the Vietnam war, they actually talk to their veteran uncle? Articles are definitely important, but they shouldn’t take precedence over relationship.

Point 2: Maybe if we valued wisdom and knowledge over tidbits of information, we’d be smarter.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T. S. Eliot, “The Rock”

We are exposed to a wealth of information with the world literally at our fingertips, and that in and of itself isn’t bad, but we can be bombarded with so much information that we don’t actually know anything. I refer to this a lot, but the Hebrew word for “know” is yada. It actually has five dimensions, and the gist of them all is basically that if you claim to know something, you know it in complete detail because you’ve studied, analyzed, investigated, or personally encountered it. This is the root of knowledge. This is what we should be passing on, not information you’ve barely processed yourself but have been persuaded to believe in the two minutes you took to skim through an article or watch a YouTube video. There’s far too much information and not enough knowledge being passed around.

Please note that I’m talking to a specific group of people here. Some of you do have sufficient knowledge in the things that you share with others. As long as you’re following point one, more power to you.

There’s a reason we’re told to seek wisdom as for precious gold. It’s through our life experiences and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we gain the ability to make correct judgments and decisions. Knowledge can help guide the decisions that we make, but it’s not the ultimate goal. Wisdom is. There was a time I was asked to speak at an AGLOW meeting, and I shared on the Holy Spirit. I had spent the summer really sitting with God and asking some questions about how to live by the Spirit, so everything I shared in my message was the result of that extended conversation. After I spoke, an older gentleman approached me and said, “I just want to encourage you because God showed you in a few months what has taken me thirty years to learn.” I can’t and don’t say that to brag, because it’s been a long time since I’ve just sat before the Lord and asked His Spirit of wisdom to enlighten my eyes instead of going straight to the computer to find articles or commentary whenever I have a question. Again, I’m not saying commentary is bad, I love using it, but I am saying that there’s something to be said about the acceleration of true knowledge and wisdom that comes from seeking it directly from the source.

Knowledge unto itself is just knowledge

In the western world we tend to value our access to information and we take pride in our knowledge, but knowledge unto itself is just knowledge. There’s no real fruit to be gleaned from it unless it’s put into action. I know people who have studied the Sermon on the Mount forwards and backwards multiple times, yet they don’t live its teachings out nearly as well as some of the people I’ve found here in Kenya that have maybe a sixth grade education and couldn’t even tell you where the Sermon on the Mount is located. It’s not about how much you know, people, it’s about how well you live out what you know. When you stand before the Father one day, that’s all He’s going to care about. Can it be all that we care about too?

[Disclaimer] I must end this slight diatribe by acknowledging that I do realize the irony of writing a blog post about why we need to stop relying so much on articles. Just doing my part to challenge you in your search for understanding. 😉