I'm still trying to make sense of my experience in Bible college. There are days when I'm overwhelmed and angry with myself for paying so much money and spending so much of my time to get an education that will literally get me no where...unless you hear of a progressive church willing to hire a gay lady for a pastor, then please send me the deets.
But there are days when I feel really proud of the knowledge I gained during that time, and I feel grateful to the few professors who took academia very seriously, even to the point that the passing of their knowledge could have been misconstrued by the university as heresy or subversive.
If I had to pick one lesson, one idea that has been the most valuable during my collegiate studies and now, in the post-college world, it would be the simple, two-word lesson I learned during a class called Bible Study Methods:
I know that from our earliest experiences in school, we're taught to go to the school library, look for all of the books that pertain to whatever subject we're writing a paper for, create a bibliography, and gather all of the information possible in our tiny little world. This was before the internet. And just to highlight how far technology has come over just in the past ten years, I'll tell you that when I was finishing up my undergrad degree in 2007, most of my professors still felt hesitant in letting students use Internet sources...I almost guarantee they cannot do that now.
When I was young and did a science project on the genetic disease neurofibromatosis, all I had to do was find any resource with any amount of information on the subject. Gathering information was the easy part of doing the report. I never had to worry that someone who knew very little about the disease or that someone who had some strange idea that the disease was fake, would have published a book about the disease in an attempt to mislead the public or push their own crazy ideas about the disease. I didn't have to consider the source.
Years later, in those 100 level classes that were designed to teach me about how to effectively study the Bible and do the hard work of exegesis and theological study, my professor made it clear that not every source was valid, and that some sources, though they might still be considered academic in nature, would potentially have a slanted view not suited for objective, fact-based study. This has always been an issue when it comes to Biblical study and the interpretation of religious sources. Now, throw in the Internet and people who could self-publish their works, who managed to later sell their work to publishing companies who were owned by people with a particular worldview and may or may not be high level donors in the political world, and it became necessary to look at every source critically.
We have a President who has actively called the press the enemy and calls every news outlet, save for one that resembles a propaganda machine, "Fake News." We've seen the fallout in recent days as three CNN reporters resigned after the news corporation had to pull a story about a Trump associate, after it was discovered that the published story did not meet CNN's usual standards of reporting. Within days of Trump taking office, we saw Sean Spicer perform his first of what has now been become hundreds of lies, as he peddled the whopper of a lie that the crowd at the inauguration of President Trump was the largest crowd for any presidential inauguration, ever. When that lie was obviously questioned and proven to be untrue, KellyAnne Conway coined the now-famous term for lie: Alternative Facts.
In fact, just yesterday, Sara Huckabee Sanders went on a tangent about how unfair the media is to Mr. Trump and went on a Sean Spicer-inspired tirade about fake news and false reporting...then encouraged everyone to watch a video in which she could not verify the footage to be real. Spoiler: the video she asked everyone to watch was a video made by James O'Keefe, the guy who appears to record secret "gotcha" videos, then heavily edits them to fit a particular political narrative. He's been arrested for trespassing, has had to issue multiple public apologies for purposefully misleading the public through doctoring "undercover" videos, and has had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements where he secretly recorded people, edited the footage to promote a false narrative, then publicly release such videos. I mean, he is the personification of Fake News, and the White House press office just peddled his newest video while calling other news outlets fake. Probably doesn't hurt that the Trump Foundation donated $10,000 towards the project that Sanders promoted from the podium, yesterday.
These are just a few instances where the lesson we need to walk away with is that resources matter. There are literally hundreds of other lies being told from the White House daily, from the President, from his surrogates, and from media outlets with a vested interest in representing the administration in a certain light.
This can be no more apparent than the interview that Trump gave to Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt, when she asked about President Trump revealing that he had no tapes of his conversation with Jim Comey. On camera, Trump goes into his usual word salad response that Earhardt interprets as that by implying that he might have had tapes of his conversation with Comey, that forced the ousted FBI Director to suddenly change his story and tell the truth. When Trump finishes rambling, she says, "That was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in those hearings."
Wow. No wonder Fox News recently dropped their slogan "Fair & Balanced."
This is not journalism. This is not even someone pretending to be a journalist. This is propaganda from an outlet that is barely covering the news of the day, because the news of the day is that our President and his team lie, get caught about lying, and may have broken some laws and committed treason. If you can stomach watching Fox News for any amount of time, you'll find that you'll get very little news or information. Perhaps this is why Fox is losing viewers and has lost their place of dominance in the ratings.
I'm not being totally naive here, either. I know that all of the news channels are slanted a bit in one way or another, politically speaking. I get that. But other news channels pale in comparison to Fox's blatant attempt to worship Trump, just so they might get mentioned in one of his tweets or get an exclusive interview so Trump can talk about himself and get softballs lobbed at him.
There is one journalist doing truly incredible work right now, and she has been for some time...and it's good to see her finally getting the viewership and accolades she deserves. Yes, my friends, I know some of you have been trained to hate anyone or anything that comes from the MSNBC machine, or have been exposed to too much Rush, Glenn Beck, InfoWars, and Fox News to know what real journalism looks like, but you need to just be a grown up now and accept that there is only one journalist right now that makes everyone else look like hacks. Rachel Maddow, who graduated from Stanford University with a degree in public policy and received a doctorate degree in political science from Oxford University, where she attended as a Rhodes Scholar. Her education background alone gives her far more credibility than other journalists. The fact that she's never lost a job due to sexual harassment helps, or has never been arrested for prescription drug fraud, and actually made it through college (Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity both dropped out, as well as Rush Limbaugh) should make you wonder why she is just now getting the accolades she deserves, and why these other guys have gotten away with pretending to know what in the world they are talking about for so long.
Some time ago, the very conservative mother of one of my dearest friends, asked me why education was so important in journalism. She said that sometimes the most educated are the least open minded people. And maybe she has personal experiences to back up that claim. But here's what I can tell you (and it's how I felt when Trump promoted himself as a political outsider): I don't want someone who dropped out of medical school to perform appendectomies, I don't want a pilot who didn't complete hours of flight training to fly planes, and I don't trust that someone who couldn't even make it through college to be able to accurately report the news and give the public the nuanced details of policy and government operation. I certainly don't trust a guy who has used bankruptcy and shady financial dealings for his own benefit to run our economy. I want leadership and integrity in journalism...and in my president, for that matter.
Resources matter. And that's why I will shamelessly promote Rachel Maddow. She is killing it right now and you would do yourself a great favor to tune in to her every night to see what she is reporting on. You have to pay attention and care about the details, just as my professors in Bible college instructed me to do. And you don't have to agree with every single thing and viewpoint she might have, but you will get details, resources, and history you will not get any where else.
Tune in, for the love of all that matters!
Please visit my Resources page to see what books, blogs, podcasts, & other media I regularly reference and recommend. And please feel free to share your recommendations that you've discovered, as well!
And one more thing...big shout out and all caps THANK YOU to Brian Karem, who courageously stood up to the White House Press Office, yesterday. We need more like, you, Mr. Karem.