Last week, I talked about how it seems like the media hooks onto something and beats it to death, taking the focus off other more important things. This gets people upset. Sometimes they don’t even understand what they are upset about. Often, the public doesn’t even have all the facts. In an effort to pack a lot of headlines into a short period, pieces are cut for highlights. Sometimes this can be misleading. The tactics of creating hype and misleading people remind me of three Biblical incidents. It seems people are the same no matter the time period or type of technology. If you can get a group upset, they may follow without checking the facts causing problems that someone more level headed needs to defuse.
Thousands of years later, we are still having the same problems, just in a different, more penetrating form. We still have people who are starting arguments and blaming someone else for the trouble they caused. We still have people jumping to conclusions without all the facts or making assumptions based on rumors. We have misunderstandings because people are too hasty to believe negative reports. We still have people jumping on the bandwagon without knowing what the shouting is about.
The first incident is in Acts 17 when the Jews dragged Jason and some others before the city officials shouting that they were harboring troublemakers who were defying Caesar by saying there was another king named Jesus. Jason posted bail, and Paul and Silas left to another place. The Jews followed them to the other city and stirred up trouble again. Paul and Silas were explaining the Scriptures and proving Jesus was the Christ. They weren’t stirring up trouble; it was the agitators who disagreed with them who were stirring up the trouble.
The second is in Acts 21-23. Paul was in the temple with four men who had made a vow. Some Jews saw Paul in the temple and accused him of defiling the holy place by bringing a Greek into the temple, which he had not. They accused him of teaching men against the Jews, their law, their temple, all of which were false. People came running, and they all tried to kill Paul, but the Roman soldiers heard and came to break up the fight. They arrested Paul. Before he was taken into the barracks, Paul asked to speak to the Jews. He spoke to them in their own language. They listened until he said he was going to minister to the Gentiles. Then they went berserk again. Paul hadn’t done anything to hurt anyone. They simply did not like what he believed.
Another time was in Acts 19 when the silversmith caused a riot because Paul said his idols were not gods. Verse 32 says, “The assembly was in confusion: some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.” The city clerk was able to quiet them and told them to make their charges in court. He said if they didn’t stop they could be charged with rioting, for which they would have no defense or reason of support.
I think sometimes our television and radio news just tell enough to incite people. Before getting upset, we need to investigate deeper, learn both sides of the story. Perhaps we will disagree, but we can disagree with respect instead of disdain. And how often do we have to hear the same story? Do they hope we just stop listening?
Journalism is an honorable profession. Somehow, some people have strayed into entertainment and ratings rather than in reporting and digging for the truth. I hope we can find our way back.
It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. Proverbs 19:2.