Itching Ears

August 8, 2017

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3 (Revised Standard Version)

Thanks to good parents, I’ve been reading the Bible all my life. It continues to delight me with those hidden bits of wisdom newly discovered. The above scripture, though thousands of years old, is more relevant to our times than ever before.

Today, America is drowning in information. But we are starving for truth.

In our confusing and uncertain times, we become frightened as we grope in the darkness. We quickly formulate and hold fast to our own opinion, as a drowning person might grab a life buoy. We lack the courage and faith to maintain open acceptance and we refuse to search long and hard for the facts before we draw conclusions.

We can all sympathize with Pontius Pilate in this regard. Frustrated and perplexed with the seemingly unreasonable clamor of the Jewish mob who wanted to put a peaceful and harmless itinerant preacher to death, he listened to the shouts and demands while trying to discern the facts. Exasperated, he finally threw up his hands in confusion and exclaimed, “What is truth?”

I’ve always felt a slight tinge of sympathy for Pilate. Any judge knows exactly how he felt. Most Americans today know how he felt.

What is truth?

We have two types of citizens. There are those, who subconsciously, do not want to know the truth. They fear the truth. They are afraid that they will lose the security of the life buoy and fall back into the sea of uncertainty. These are the people “who wander into myth.”

And then there are those who are deliberate in sifting through the evidence and slow to come to a conclusion until they are totally confident of the credibility of the source of information. Who is bearing this information? What bias do they bring? Are they fair and trustworthy? And even after reaching an opinion, they welcome a continual flow of new information, and are not afraid to change their mind.

It’s upon this latter group of citizens that the future of America depends.

Around the clock, we are bombarded with news blaring out from flat screens everywhere. You have to work to get away from them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did not show up on the Appalachian Trail.

And the media—especially television— is not interested in the truth. They are interested in the ratings. They are interested in the profit margin. As my father said about a man who talked all the time, “a man that talks that much, is bound to run out of truth.” A television network spewing out news around the clock is certain to run out of truth.

The media is in the business to take information and select and parlay it along to the American public as entertainment. So, controversy is always their top billing. It is a reality of the childhood playground—a good fight always draws a crowd. So, the media—electronic primarily—agitates constant turmoil and friction, pitting race against race, men against women, Democrats against Republicans, liberals against conservatives…Americans against Americans. It draws a crowd to make more and more money by better ratings. It is human failing for us to be drawn, like the moth to the flame, to the sensationalized sex, racial strife, violence, and crime stories. Therein lies the golden goose of television magnates.

Senator John McCain recently recognized this. “Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the internet…they don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”

MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox News. Quite frankly, I don’t trust any of them. My proudest boast is my wife and five children. Next is that I’ve never written a check for cable television.

The toughest challenge for us today is not understanding information. It is obtaining truthful information. When television news was a service, ladled out in short, daily reports, and not entertainment—we trusted the messenger. Huntly and Brinkley, John Chancellor, Walter Cronkite, Douglas Edwards. They had a very short time in the evening to tell us what was important. And they did so and then got out of the way. We trusted them not to lie or deceive us. And, they didn’t. At least, never intentionally.

So, we hack on through the dense undergrowth of media noise, tying to acquire enough knowledge of the world around us to make good decisions. It’s not easy. But if we realize that the truth is elusive, and we are doing our best to track it down…that is a good start. Unfortunately, it seems that most of Americans never get that far.

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