“People have a tendency to stop thinking when it becomes difficult, but it is at that point that thinking becomes fruitful.” Leo Tolstoy
“The skeptic looks at something and says, ‘I wonder.’ The cynic says, ‘I know,’ and then stops thinking.” Dean Nelson
Job’s “friends” bombarded him with lazy-thinking platitudes. At one point, he’d had enough and exploded with: “Doubtless you are the only people who matter, and wisdom will die with you! But I have a mind as well as you, I am not inferior to you.”
Then he posited his own alternative to their cliché-riddled theology: “Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?”
If you think about it, when we’re offered some untested morsel, before wolfing down, we take a small bite. We give it a taste test. If it seems worthy of consumption, we chew it, swallow, and smile. If it’s not, we fake a cough and spit it out in our napkin. (I’ve had some experience along these lines.) Similarly, before gobbling up every bite of news, we should apply the same strategy, i.e., use a little discernment.
For the last few weeks we’ve been looking at Critical Thinking Christianity. For context, scroll down to earlier posts. It seems to me that a lot of Christians were absent from school on the day they covered “Critical Thinking.” When they received Jesus they kissed their brains good-bye and started letting others think for them.
Harsh, I know, but I think it has to be said. Lazy-thinking Christianity translated into public life without the benefit of critical thought is dangerous to the Church, to our citizenry, and to even to our democracy.
I want to be clear that I’m not saying that if you disagree with me ideologically that you’re automatically mistaken and a lazy thinker. To be a critical thinker you don’t have to agree with me. I’m not the standard here. That place belongs to our Creator. You can disagree with me and be quite right. But disagreeing with him is not advisable.
I love conversing with critical thinking people. I’ve even been known to change a view or two when convinced to do so. It’s the lazy-thinking masses on social media who obviously have not thought through their argument and spout the opinions of others that annoy me.
Critical thinkers think for themselves.
They don’t let others do their thinking for them. No, not even FOX News, NPR, Rush Limbaugh, or Bernie Sanders. They don’t just regurgitate their party’s platform, or their denominational affiliation. Not even their pastor can do their thinking for them.
Lazy thinkers only know what they’ve been told. They seldom sit quietly and ponder their faith, their political views, or anything for that matter. They subject themselves only to group-think. They check out and the echo chamber of their party, church, or culture takes the place of objective examination of what is presented to them.
Rather than actually thinking for themselves, lazy thinkers bookmark their favorite website for bullet point rebuttals to everything conservative or liberal, progressive or regressive. They copy their handy dandy list, and paste it into whatever Facebook stream they’re in at the time. Copying and pasting the ideas of others rather than developing their own saves time and makes them sound smart. These bullet point lists of rebuttals, complete with ready-made rants and clichés to objectionable ideologies of any ilk are the lazy thinkers’ BFF.
Lazy thinkers are suckers for alternative-fact-riddled “fake news,” the more outlandish the better. Even though everyone is entitled to their own opinion, everyone is not entitled to their own facts. Fear-mongering claims fill the media like sewage, and undiscerning Christians swallow it up. Yuck! Sorry about the image. But if it walks like and talks like a duck… Especially in these days we all need to be media literate so we can tell the difference between real and made up.
In an attempt to foster critical thinking in their student body, the University of Minnesota published Five Techniques for Identifying Fake News:
- Read past the headline
- Evaluate the source of the information
- Evaluate the actual claims being made
- Be skeptical
- Fact check from a third party
In other words, pick a few news sources from different perspectives, choose intelligent ones, be discerning, and check the facts so as not to be duped by someone with an agenda.
Although your mind’s opaque
Try thinking more if just for your own sake
The future still looks good
And you’ve got time to rectify
All the things that you should (George Harrison, 1965)
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” Romans 12:2 (The Message)
Next, we’ll look at how Critical Thinking Christians Think Through Scripture.