“What? You want me to be a skeptic?”
“Because healthy skepticism is, well, healthy.”
If I held that unrecognizable lump out to you in my hand, and said, “Have a bite,” a little healthy skepticism might save you from at the least a horrible taste to, at worst, getting sick. (Actually, it’s digitally cut out from a photograph of Burger King’s ribs, so it might taste good.)
Now when I say “healthy skepticism,” I mean this: If someone tells you the earth is round, not flat, that is not something to be skeptical about. If someone tells you the average temperature of a healthy human, taken under the tongue, is 98.6 degrees, that is not something to be skeptical about. Why? Because those are proven facts. But if someone tells you the paint on the chair is dry, and you can smell paint fumes in the air, be skeptical—even if that friend is a professional painter. Check. Touch it with your finger just to make sure you don’t ruin your $250.00 suit by sitting in wet paint.
I’ve been having an interesting discussion with a friend regarding a video on YouTube of General Boykin telling us how the Obama administration is selling us down the river to Marxism. I have pointed out numerous misleading statements and outright lies in his video in a previous blog post (Deconstructing a Conservative Rant). Yet she cannot bring herself to dismiss it as ultraconservative propaganda. Why is this? She believes, 1) that General Boykin has credibility because of his position, and, 2) “learned and educated” friends of hers accept it, and that they have credibility.
Is that true? No! No one, especially in the political realm, has inherent credibility! Does a decorated, retired army general have inherent credibility? No! Does a major candidate who is also a Christian have any inherent credibility? No! Do commentators, newscasters, bloggers, etc.—and you know their names—have any inherent credibility? No! And just to get the attention of my friends who are Christian conservatives, do your Christian friends, or does your pastor have any inherent credibility? No! (And if that answer causes your hackles to rise, I suggest you check where Paul praised the Bereans because they actually read the book to see if Paul was telling them the truth. Even he did not expect them to believe him just because of his name and sterling reputation.) No one in this realm has any inherent credibility, and that includes me!
What then is the difference between, for example, listening to General Boykin’s YouTube video and reading my blog about the same video? The difference is highly important and it is this: General Boykin—and many, many others—makes statements they say are based on some document. I quote the actual words of the document to you and give you a link to it so you can see it for yourself. Why is this vital? Facts! Like the earth being round.
You and I and General Boykin can be standing in a house under construction discussing the height of the ceilings. General Boykin exclaims, “Those ten-foot ceilings are pretentious and waste heat.” I might say to you, “The general is mistaken, friend. Those are only nine-foot ceilings. Look at the blueprints here and you can see for yourself.” But the only way to really answer the question in this case is to pick up a tape measure and get the facts—the facts—about how high they are. So General Boykin’s speculation and hints and even outright lies, even though they may sound logical, and even though they may fit with what you believe is going on in the world, cannot stand when compared to the facts of the actual documents. Surely we can all agree that is true, can’t we?
In addition to having healthy skepticism, I would ask you to have bilateral skepticism. What is that? All of us—that is every single one of us—has a tendency to believe people who say something we already believe to be true. That is why leaders, commentators, entertainers, etc. can say something and be instantly believed. If you hear something from someone you either know or even suspect of coming from a different point of view, the instant tendency is to dismiss it as “just another one of their lies.” (Go back and read the article on the distance between the two parties in this climate.) Because they are the “enemy,” there can be no truth in them is too often the thought process. And that thought process will always keep you from discovering the truth—the facts.
Those of us who are old enough know that on Dragnet, Joe Friday was famous for saying, “Just the facts, ma’am.” What you may not know is that itself isn’t a fact. Joe had been known to say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am,” and “All we know are the facts, ma’am.” But it was a song spoof of the show titled Little Blue Riding Hood that used the now-famous phrase. Don’t make the same mistake in the vital issues of the day. Just because something sounds familiar, or sounds right, don’t allow yourself to swallow it hook, line and sinker. Get the facts! Just the facts, ma’am.