A study came out this week, by researchers David E. Broockman and Joshua L. Kalla (https://osf.io/jrw26/). They paid a group of Fox News watchers to switch over to CNN and watch for a while. You know what happened? Many in the group changed their minds about several issues.
No, this is not a devotion bashing Fox News. There’s plenty of partisan media to go around, whatever your political views. The researcher’s conclusion, as far as I could tell, is that sticking to one news source can hurt your chances of seeing the whole picture.
That’s why we have four different gospels. We get to learn about Jesus from four different perspectives. Did you know that each gospel tells different stories from the rest? For instance, Matthew has the wise men, but Luke has the shepherds. And Mark and John? They don’t mention the birth of Jesus at all!
Luke is the social activist. John is the spiritual poet. Mark unveils the story of Jesus as if it’s a mystery. And Matthew wants its Jewish readers to know that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Each gospel tells it a little differently, but when read together, we get this remarkable 3D rendering of the life, death, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Now, if all you’re interested in is some tasty talking points about Jesus, any of these gospels will do. Some people focus all their energy on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew) or the light in the darkness (John). Some people will tell you Mark is the first gospel, lean and without a lot of unnecessary details. Others will claim Luke cares about the poor in the most real way.
But really, we don’t see a lot of people falling into a “Mark” camp or a “Luke” camp. We’ve long since learned that to really learn about Jesus, we benefit greatly from multiple perspectives.
So why can’t we learn to do that with the nightly news? A big reason may be that, unlike the gospels that we have learned to harmonize, most popular news outlets make their money by creating dissonance. The things that matter on Fox are different from the things that matter on MSNBC. The more you and I can realize and see past that, the better a chance for us to take everything as information to be carefully reviewed, analyzed, and accepted or rejected, based on the same scrutiny with which thinking Christians approach the Bible.
If you can’t tell, I’m pretty bitter when it comes to the news. Somewhere along the way the pursuit of Truth gave way to the pursuit of viewers, and it has only done harm to the world. That’s my opinion, but I’m sticking to it.
If you’re interested in receiving news without as much bias, I recommend sites like https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/center/, which has a long list of news sites that try to reduce bias in their reporting. And if you’re interested in learning more about the difference between the gospels, I recommend a good study bible, like the CEB Common English Study Bible. It’s an easy translation to read, with excellent commentary on every verse.
Getting at “The Truth” seems harder than ever these days, especially when news outlets have such a “buy us” bias. Each of us is responsible not to sit back and accept every “fact” tossed our direction. Jesus was constantly wrestling with others about the nature of Truth, and he used scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (just like Methodists) to inform his teachings. We can do the same.
By all means, my friends…
DO touch that dial.
Have a great week,