Friday, May 29, 2015

In Screens We Trust- Why We Must ALL Be Careful

I have written, posted, edited, and eventually retracted this post a number of times.

Before I finish this blog today, I'm finally going to say something about Ferguson. A blog is a tough place to write about some of these complex things, because I often find that my point isn't clear enough, and I promote divisiveness when my goal is gospel unity.

But now  Baltimore, Maryland has had tragedy after tragedy... and still has potentially more tinder for a fire that not only ravages the citizens of the city- it has national implications as well.

So, at the end of this piece, I will say a few words... but the bottom line is this... Ferguson is a microcosm of a real problem we have in the world of social media and 24 hour news for profit.

The facts of Ferguson finally show a verdict.... we were ALL wrong. And I worry if anyone is willing to see it and say it.

One of the dangers in today’s society is screen manipulation or deception.

In his mesmerizing book, Future Crimes (2015/Doubleday), Marc Goodman devotes an entire chapter to this phenomenon. It is Chapter 8, “In Screens We Trust”

He uses an attention getting quote to begin the process:

“The world isn’t run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money. It’s run by ones and zeros—little bits of data. It’s all electrons. There’s a war out there, a world war. It’s not about who has the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information—what we see and hear, how we work, what we think. It’s all about information.
Excerpt From: Marc Goodman. “Future Crimes.” iBooks. (emphasis mine)

This chapter is another example about our vulnerability when it comes to bad guys and technology. Malicious hackers can cause great destruction by having ordinary people just follow what their screen tells them to do.

We see this honestly when we follow the GPS directions in google maps without any concern that the sweet girl’s voice coming out of the device may be dead wrong. Before we know it we are heading to Paducah, KY instead of Kentucky Avenue. Any alert person would recognize that they needed to travel 25 minutes and not 5 hours! But many of us will follow her voice way beyond the alarms in our brain going off and saying to us that ‘this ain’t right’ !

Goodman’s examples are way cooler than mine. Did you know that the virus (or more precise the computer ‘worm’) that damaged the Iranian Nuclear facilities messed up centrifuges, but kept faulty information on the sensors? The engineers were blindly believing their screens that all systems were ‘green’, when the real data should have shown them that everything was red lining. We have to understand that the screens may not be telling us the truth!

Every screen we read…. whether it is airport flight information or our latest bank statement look so smart...great optics….colors, bars, pictures...but the screens are dumb. They are only as good as the information is accurate.

How fake is our online world? Here is what Goodman uncovers:

“According to Facebook’s own 2014 annual report, up to 11.2 percent of its accounts are fake. Considering the world’s largest social media company has 1.3 billion users, that means up to 140 million Facebook accounts are fraudulent and these users simply don’t exist. With 140 million inhabitants, fake Facebook-land would be the tenth-largest country in the world. Just as Nielsen ratings on television sets determine different advertising rates for The Walking Dead versus the Super Bowl, online ad sales are determined by how many eyeballs a Web site or social media service can command—if only the data could be believed.
Want 4,000 followers on Twitter? They can be yours for $5. Want 100,000 fans on Facebook? No problem, you can buy them on SocialMediaCorp.​org for a mere $1,500. Have even more cash to burn? How about a million new friends on Instagram? “For you we make special deal,” only $3,700. Whether you want favorites, Likes, retweets, up votes, or page views, all are for sale on Web sites like Swenzy, Fiverr, and Craigslist. These fraudulent social media accounts are then used to falsely endorse a product, service, or company, for a small fee of course[…]”

Excerpt From: Marc Goodman. “Future Crimes.” iBooks.

What impact does all this make?

Sadly, the culmination of the speed of information, the amount of information,  the erosion of critical thinking and non-political education, the trend of resisting an authorized Truth and having no consensus of values is killing our country.

Of all the screens, which one is the MOST deceptive?

The cable news screen.

America… we have a problem, and a study of Ferguson is a clinical on the cancer.


I still can’t believe I am writing this… because I feel like Nietzche’s madman…  how can I articulate something so complex when I too suffer the symptoms? And how can I do it without being misunderstood?

I am haunted by a quote by Ravi Zacharias everytime I speak and write:

How do you reach a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings?
But here is my attempt…

Are ANY of us willing to challenge our preconceived and settled judgments AND be willing to change those as the evidence directs?

The human condition doesn’t give us much hope to believe this to be so.

How many times in your life have you presented solid arguments and facts to try and persuade someone to alter a view only to find that you did almost nothing in altering that view?

But at the same time, how many people have ever swayed your opinion?

We all believe that facts should shape our perception, but the reality is that most of the time we collect only the facts that bolster our perceptions.


Let me preach and then I will move to my point.

We used to sing a hymn many years ago…(remember hymns?).

  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
  • Mold me and make me after Thy will,
  • While I am waiting, yielded and still.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Search me and try me, Master, today!
  • Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
  • As in Thy presence humbly I bow.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
  • Power, all power, surely is Thine!
  • Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
  • Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
  • Christ only, always, living in me.

  • (Words: Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907. Pollard believed God wanted her in Africa as a missionary, but she was unable to raise funds to go. In an uncertain state of mind, she attended a prayer meeting, where she heard an elderly woman pray, It’s all right, Lord. It doesn’t matter what You bring into our lives, just have Your own way with us. At home that night, much encouraged, she wrote this hymn.
  • Music: Adelaide George C. Stebbins, Northfield Hymnal with Alexander’s Supplement1907-source: )


American rugged individualism and Christ followers have always been at odds and yet Alexis de Tocqueville has been one of the few who saw the tension as paramount in the success, prosperity, and continuation of the American experiment.

“As I see it, only God can be all-powerful without danger, because his wisdom and justice are always equal to his power. Thus there is no authority on earth so inherently worthy of respect, or invested with a right so sacred, that I would want to let it act without oversight or rule without impediment.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (p. 290)

Our only hope as a nation is that we would temper our personal freedom by a willingness to acknowledge a higher cause to yield to. America proved the world right that no human king is worthy of that power. American democracy is a compliance to be governed by a consent of the governed. The power is in the people, but if the people are polarized and not unified, there is no power to progress.

When America submitted to Jesus as their spiritual king, there was a consensus of value. Because humans are involved, it is never a perfect and uniform obedience, the Bible celebrates diversity. Unity does not mean uniformity.

But even George Bush lost his moorings. His desire to spread ‘freedom’ to the middle east and other places was benevolent, but misguided. In a final analysis, ‘Liberty’ is not a high enough virtue. Freedom without virtue and self submission is ultimately selfishness.
Capitalism without virtue is greed. America without virtue is chaos.

Political freedom without a self submission to an outside absolute is a recipe for disaster.

I have quoted the last line of the Book of Judges too many times… but the broken record sounds the same:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

(Judges 21:25 ESV)

I fully believe in the existence of God and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But even if I did not… that is the One world view that I would want to dominate any culture without fear. It is a call to die to self and live for others.

The problem is that a nation does not fare well in a theocracy… because ultimately men have to rule.

Again, understanding I may be misunderstood-

What I am advocating is a full endorsement of the American constitution. It has a wise self correcting mechanism built within the separation of powers.

But without self governance of individuals, even the American constitution is corrupted.

There has to be an ideal bigger that the Constitution… our founders understood that.

The Declaration of Independence lays it out… read it again for yourself:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The only way for our nation to last is a willingness for people to be ruled under submission to their Creator, then they give consent to be governed. But when ANY form of government becomes destructive to those ends (not ‘light and transient causes’ i.e. all humans suffer) there has to be change.

Again… Life, Freedom, and Happiness are not in a vacuum… they are in the context of a Creator. Self rule is governed by Him, and that gives men the ability to submit.

And whether Deist or Calvinist.. the founders view of the Creator was the God of the Bible- the Judeo-Christian God… love, justice, peace, and moral law.


Any hope of human reconciliation must begin with a healthy self suspicion and a willingness to say, “I was wrong… I am sorry...please forgive me.”

Can a marriage be saved by looking at a spouse and saying, “You are wrong..but if you confess, I will consider it”? This attitude is a quick trip to the divorce court.

All human reconciliation begins with a willingness to lay down my rights for the sake of others.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

(2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

I personally believe that this type of love is not possible apart from the beautiful example and message of Jesus.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(Romans 5:6-8 ESV)


The story of the shooting of Michael Brown (Aug. 9, 2014), the media coverage, the public outcry, the criminal investigation, and the DOJ investigation is a microcosm of all we are suffering from as a nation.

Would we have Baltimore burning if the Ferguson incident didn’t happen?

I don’t believe it would be to the degree…. and I truly believe that we are looking at worse things if we do not come to some level of understanding here.

On March 4, the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division released their report of the Ferguson Police Department. You can read all 100 plus pages here:

But this report is one of many facets, or factors that need to be weighed.

What a perfect storm!

The Ferguson disaster is a combination of these factors (along with the problem of presuppositions and factors I tried to flesh out).
  • Socio-economic issues. Poverty rate is very high
  • Law Enforcement Patterns of Concern. Policing for profit. Read the report!
  • Widening gap between the rich and the poor. Fractured homes and ineffective education.
  • Media hype. Media for profit sensationalizes. If it bleeds it leads.
  • American pastime of opinions/perceptions devoid of facts.
  • Leaders with agendas. A good leader will correct and counter for good of all.
  • Victim mentality- we have been hurt so we can hurt and destroy without consequence.
  • Abuse of authority. If you question me I will make you miserable.
  • Finger pointing instead of personal responsibility.
  • Liberals and conservatives distrust and blame one another.
  • Race baiting and excuse making on both sides.
  • Talking heads… all problems and positions… no remedies.
  • The agenda is to win my viewpoint… not find healing.
  • T.V. is deceptive… it over hypes and ultimately trivializes real problems.
  • No perseverance… we left Ferguson to  be consumed by Baltimore.. and soon we will ponder flood victims in Texas. Who stays to help improve and change?
  • The circus came to town and piles of debris a left in its wake.
In the end, Ferguson proved almost every outside opinion wrong. Sadly, we jumped on any salacious  tidbit to prove our presuppositions about what really happened. Solid facts are now in place. Officer Wilson used justifiable force, Michael Brown did not have his hands up, but the climate of the Ferguson police department wasn't conducive to good public relations and community cooperation- and a lot of good people got hurt in the process. Some refuse to budge on their positions even in the light of these facts. EVERYONE needs to alter their narrative based on these truths. Shame on the leaders, shame on TV news organizations, but shame on us as well.... we have to be better than this.

We have some severe issues in our nation, and polarization squashes any momentum to find progress and healing.



This is not a 50/50 deal… it is you bring your 100% and it doesn’t matter if nothing comes in return.

Everyday, I must wake up and say:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

and then I need to live each day with an earnest, energetic, and honest quest to serve and love others under the direction of God’s Spirit.

Do I encourage people? Do I give to those who are hurting or needy? Have I been faithful to my family? Can I speak and live to promote unity.. racial healing… hopeful and not pessimistic? Do I speak words of life or death? Do I honor authority? Do I pray for my leaders? Do I work hard as unto the Lord? Do I always have to get my way? Am I willing to consider I am wrong? Do I initiate reconciliation? Do I forgive? Do I judge without looking at myself? Am I willing to die for my belief in the Bible and the good news of Jesus? And am I willing to suffer for standing on truth?

And the big problem is... the answer to those questions show me how much of a sinner I am. I can ONLY say yes to those questions if I have God's Spirit in me.

At the end of every day, because I failed, and fell short I pray this prayer:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

(Romans 8:1 ESV)

I do believe there will be a judgement day and a new heaven and earth… but that doesn’t mean I don’t work to make this world a better place today. It is our calling… to be salt and light… not divisive and cruel.


This does not mean that I withhold speaking Biblical truth. Not everyone will like or accept that truth.

There will be those who will want to silence me because the world view I ascribe to. Often because the message means we have a responsibility to God, we are accountable to Him. Men know God is there… but they, naturally, do not love that view.

But even then, it is not my job to be ‘dead right’ or to kill others with truth.

God loves me even though I am unlovely.

Shouldn’t I be willing to do the same toward others?

Jesus said it best… what good is it if you love those that love you?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

(Matthew 5:43-47 ESV)

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