I am quite fond of social media. I love the connection, the sharing of information, and the ease of interchange. With all of its benefits, however, come a number of drawbacks. With the election season in full swing, I am reminded how the equal playing field of the world wide web has negatively impacted an ability for honest dialogue.
In theory, it seems nice that niche news services no longer have exclusive access to “the facts” (if there are such things). We have seen numerous examples where non-official sources have provided better information than traditional news outlets. However, more often than not ideology trumps truth and punditry trumps accurate sources. Say what you will about traditional news outlets (and much negative can be said) but the idea that “facts” must be vetted and checked is important. It seems that news agencies are getting themselves in trouble when they try to compete with bloggers or try to push an ideological agenda.
One quick glance at Facebook provides me with numerous opinions and quotes concerning politics, economics, religion, and more. Some are inspiring, clever, and quite persuasive. However, often the powerful and untrue statements are given equal weight with the mundane yet accurate. I mean, where else can the ramblings of an unemployed college student be on par with a trained economist on the topic of rising gas prices. The same is true for theologians, teachers, and more. While education does not guarantee truth it is important to recognize that some sources are more reliable and more qualified than others.
Why Scholarship is Better than Punditry
This is precisely why scholarship, at least in its best iterations, is so enlivening.
- Scholarship values disagreement without being disagreeable.
- Scholarship relies on peer review for accuracy of information and strength of argument.
- Scholarship prioritizes truth over ideology.
Now scholarship can fall into the same ideological traps as anything else but it hopefully has the necessary safeguards to avoid a never ending spiral into meaningless bickering.
I suppose there is little recourse to the current state of dialogue in the public arena. Hopefully, more people will take the quest for truth and honesty seriously and learn that every opinion is not equally valid.
Recently, I’ve found another podcast to entertain on my long drives from Hampton Roads to Wake Forest. This one, appropriately titled “You Made It Weird” is full of the raunchy humor that comedians love but most church-folk find out of bounds. The host of this delightful schmorgesborg of laughter, Pete Holmes is most readily identified with his role as the voice of the E*Trade baby:
He’s also a hilarious stand up comic:
All that being said, what intrigues me about Pete (I’ve listened to enough of his podcast that I feel like we might as well be besties), is his take on God. It is no secret that most professional comedians are rude, crude, atheistic, faith-haters. I mean, to be a comedian you have to be a jaded and cynical observer who probably had a messed up childhood. Pete, on the other hand, was raised in an evangelical Christian context that seems so familiar to me. While he can hardly be classified as a follower of Christ, the remnant of his upbringing is readily apparent (e.g., Bible quotations, etc.). He understands awkward worship services and overzealous Christian camp counselors. In addition, you can tell that he wants to believe (even if he doesn’t quite get there).
As a result, at the end of every podcast he asks his guest the appropriately weird and awkward God question. Often the answer is surprisingly interesting. For example, when listening to Pete interview Jim Gaffigan (one of the funniest comedians today) I was pleasantly surprised to hear the interchange. Granted, they talk and think like comedians (so be warned) and their ideas are not always theologically accurate. However, hearing this kind of conversation from important people in our culture is significant. Listen to this clip from the end of the Jim Gaffigan episode: