Award winning writer Harlan Ellison once said, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” That aphorism ought to be framed and put in front of every modern-day keyboard expert’s desk.
We live in an age where people who have never had any real life training or experience writing on subjects on how to defend themselves, people who have never fought one MMA fight talking about how the fighter ought to do this or that, people who have never thrown a rock, had a street fight or fired a gun properly talking about revolution, people who never trained at a higher level talking about fitness and strength, people who have never had extensive full-time pastoral experience talking about the problem of preaching (repeating the same sermon 100 times in 100 different churches doesn’t count), people who have only read a few books by an author writing their “expert” opinions on the author, people who have never worked in or research media writing about electronic media and people who have never served the poor talking about the poor. In other words, within our social media boom, we’ve created a whole generation of expert keyboard warriors, Facebook athletes and cyber theologians. They’re neither warriors nor intellectuals but pretenders. I love a meme on Facebook that says “May your life be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.”
In this age of social media boom, all we need is an appealing website, a little blog, Instagram, youtube channel and an attractive Facebook page, we can instantly become the expert. A bit more entertainment and humor, we can practically say that the sky is green (by the way, the sky isn’t blue) and someone will believe you. Package is everything. If you dare to write, someone will dare to follow. That’s the sad reality of our times. In the social media age, we aren’t saturated with too much information. Too much information is the least of our problems. We’re saturated with too much misinformation. The easiest way to spread misinformation and half-truths is to first build a straw man to knock down. The straw man is the best friend of the intellectual eunuch. Then, after knocking the straw man down, we can quote a few famous people whose opinions seem to agree with our opinion. We can even misquote them, sometimes out of ignorance often just for rhetorical effects, in English if necessary. After all, social media is all about impact and not intent or content. Rhetoric has overtaken truth. Should it be the way forward?
There’s only one small problem with this mess: integrity. Christians who participate in the public sphere of social media have a social and religious responsibility. They can’t simply write up whatever opinion they want because misinformed and ignorant opinions don’t lead people to truth. In order to participate in the social discourse, the first thing Christians needs to do is to have integrity, and that means to discipline our keyboard activities. I’m not here talking about simply refraining from colorful language. Some of us are so pious that we think a responsible usage of blog sphere or social media is just staying away from cuss words (of course, I’m not advocating chronic cussing on social media). In fact, sometimes, colorful language may be the best way to address certain issues passionately. I’m talking about giving informed opinions that will help people to truth. The informed opinion needs to primarily inform and not go for entertainment. That’s what Donald Trump often does, to the dissatisfaction of many American people. We’re already entertaining ourselves to death via youtube or hundreds of TV channels. The last thing we need is more “Christian” entertainment. What we do need is informed opinion. No one is entitled to his opinion, especially if it misleads.
In my own life, I’m going to try to write on subjects with which I have real experience and stay away as much as I can from stuff with which I have zero experience. I hope you would do the same. May your opinion be as informed as you pretend to be on Facebook or blog sphere.
PS: Just in case anyone wonders about the list of examples I listed above, I do have experience in all my examples: martial arts, street experience from working security in college, firing a gun, full-time pastoral experience where I had to preach a “different sermon” every single week for a number of years, a PhD in Paul, around 40 published books, published research on media and preaching, set a record in lifting as well as training my younger son to set a record in lifting, camera experience from doing commercial modeling and movie/TV bit parts in LA as well as being filmed for lecture DVD’s, projects helping City Team to serve the poor, and film research.