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  • Writer's pictureJim Donaher

What's a Reasonable Person To Do?

As is so often the case lately, I am perplexed.

On the one hand, we have the new president, behaving, let's just say, 'in an unconventional fashion.' He is lashing out at everything, but most of all, at 'the press,' who, unlike the way 'they' are being characterized, are not a homogeneous population.

In these turbulent times, there are very loud voices claiming to know what the truth is. Each has it's own agenda, biases and motives. The more confident/arrogant they are, the more I'm sure they are full of what makes the grass grow (no, not rainfall and sunshine).

What we used to call the mainstream media has been derided as increasingly biased and unfair in its coverage of everything. Although they are not at all perfect, they are what we have and what we are used to.

The less-mainstream media is fighting for attention, clicks, shares and most underlying all that, legitimacy. They are better at social media than the mainstream folks, and many of them are good at getting attention.

So the battle rages.

So here am I, and presumably many others, asking, 'am I being served?'

In this instance, I mean, given that I do not have all day to read hundreds of points of view, or watch all of the TV channels, how do I get a feel for what is really going on?

It used to be as straightforward as knowing that CNN was somewhere between MSNBC and Fox News on the political continuum and considering that to be a 'moderate' place. Or before that, you chose between iconic evening anchors like Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather or Peter Jennings.

Now, nobody under 70 watches the evening network news, the cable channels often feature split screen shouting matches during prime time. Furthermore, there are so many small news outlets, some of which generate what we now call 'fake' news, that a fair-minded person looking for a close approximation of the truth is left stymied.

Extremists on both sides can readily find content to support their worldview. So many are simply seeking to confirm their own opinions, not at all willing to consider alternative points of view, much less respect them. And many of these pandering outlets supply what they want. They are businesses, after all.

I've been advised by smart people that it is no longer possible to settle on one outlet for news and information, and a mix of different points of view gets one closer to the truth than any other approach. This was probably always true, but with the internet, it's much easier than it used to be.

Easier, but not easy. Who has time for all of this reading? (Well, not the president, but this isn't strictly about him.) Potentially well-meaning sites seek to curate a world of content, bringing together the relevant and sifting through the garbage to find it, but this is vulnerable to bias as well (e.g. define relevance versus garbage).

None of these questions will matter to you if you don't care, and are looking for quick, easy answers. You won't care who you listen to, as long as they look or sound good, generally echo what you already think, and are available when you are sitting around doing nothing.

But for the people who like to use actual information to decide about opinions, and not just make things up, the problem is real. I have a vivid imagination, and I know that I can conjure 20 scenarios out of nowhere, ranging from boring to disturbing to apocalyptic in a very short time. It's easy, for me at least.

Reaching an opinion about reality that I feel confident about is much harder:

  • The President is a cartoon character.

  • The President is an outsider who is making change, and upsetting the status quo is part of that.

  • The White House is in chaos.

  • The White House is being managed with a 'Team of Rivals' approach like Abraham Lincoln had.

  • The United States is in danger of losing its leadership role in the world.

  • The United States is more focused on its own interests than it is on solving everyone else's problems with it's money and power.

  • The President tweets too much and it's destabilizing.

  • The President believes in sharing his thoughts, and in so doing, be more transparent than any previous President.

From a Christian point of view, these are problems of the world. They are driven by flawed people (we are all sinners, after all), and many of them have no faith real faith to lean on for guidance, encouragement and wisdom.

God has higher calling for all of us. To rise above pettiness, isolation and mistrust. To love one another and to love God. To recognize the many common interests we have - safety, opportunity, good health, freedom - and stop fighting each other over trivia. As the book says, 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - and it's all Small Stuff.'

Jesus assured us that in this life, we would have trouble. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Jesus has overcome the world. If we stick close to him, no matter what else happens we will have troubles, but he will overcome them for us.

God bless you.

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