“Ask the Hard Questions!”
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
To be well-informed, is it enough to just be aware of the details of that we hear, see, or read? Do we consider Facebook or Instagram – or even TV newscasts – sufficient and credible sources? We live in a dynamic and fast-paced world making it hard to even keep up with what’s happening on a daily basis. But does quick convenience justify the instant acceptance of what we hear, see, or read as fact?
Quite often it’s necessary to “dig deeper” rather than accept at face value the information distributed by the various media. But does that mean we should merely take time to “google” it or ask Siri or Alexa? Who has the time or interest to double-check and verify everything every day?
Some things are truly not important enough to confirm by researching other sources. But for those news stories, findings, or statements that define or challenge our core values or beliefs, it is appropriate – and even responsible – and maybe even virtuous – to get the low-down and verify the findings.
Consider the Bereans of 2000 years ago. They are referenced in the book of Acts in the New Testament. The apostle Paul was traveling to various towns and cities around Macedonia, speaking at the synagogues and gatherings, and sharing the gospel elaborating on what Jesus had taught. But when he arrived at the city of Berea, their response was a little different:
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11, NIV
Even when hearing the words of this great apostle, the Bereans then checked (or fact-checked!) what he said to be sure it all lined up with God’s Word. We, too, can use God’s Word (the Bible) as the “grid of truth”, as the Bereans did, to confirm or reject cultural ideas.
Pope Francis stated: “We do not need to be afraid of questions and doubts because they are the beginning of a path of knowledge and going deeper; one who does not ask questions cannot progress either in knowledge or in faith.”
The struggle then becomes “how do we know what we know?” Since wisdom is the application of knowledge, then the more we seek out answers, and increase our knowledge, the richer our thinking becomes. It is not wrong to question; it IS wrong to hibernate, withdraw from conversations, and refuse to think.
Great dialogs happen when there is questioning and interaction. But these must contain facts and insights, not merely opinions. Restating our opinions does not equal critical thinking. Our time is better spent pursuing facts, learning the background, the context, various viewpoints and solutions to the situation or issue at hand, and weighing all possible considerations to instruct our own opinion.
Comprehend and observe as much as possible about the matter in question. Read books, blogs, or articles written by those in the know. Grasp new concepts. Learn new vocabulary. Discuss various worldviews with respected adults. Grow and bend as your increase in knowledge brings wisdom to share. How can we become experts on all topics? We can’t! Select those areas of interest that bother or excite and then learn as much as possible to inform and provoke thinking.
But where should we start? Good question! Arthur Ashe, the famous tennis professional, author, and inspirational speaker, has said: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5, NIV
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Conversation stimulates thinking. Friends get together and discuss issues or concerns… and then they grow in their understanding. Teens can learn this technique through conversations with parents, grandparents, youth pastors, teachers, and Sunday School leaders. Use these discussion starters and have conversations – the antidote to groupthink!
• Ask, “Where do you get your news and opinions about the world around you?” Discuss and share these sources.
• Share: “Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, ‘What is truth?’ That’s a hard question for everyone. What is your answer to that question?”
• Ask, “When you hear, see, or read something that seems contrary to your thinking or beliefs, how do you react?”
• Share: “Asking questions does not have to be confrontational. How can you ask others’ opinions about hard questions at school or at church without seeming argumentative?”
• Ask: “What happens when your friends have a controversy? How is it resolved?”
• Share and discuss this scripture: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5, NIV
• Discuss a current issue in your community, school, or city. Brainstorm ways you could all learn more, including facts, the background, context, and various viewpoints and possible solutions. Have the teens do some research and then revisit the topic in the near future, discussing what they have learned and perhaps sharing their research with authority figures.
• Guide dialog as controversial topics come up. Encourage teens to “dig deeper” and “ask the hard questions”.
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
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