Recently, I watched a video on YouTube. It was one of those innumerable educational videos put out by entities such as universities, think tanks, and other outlets (Big Think, Second Thoughts, NowThis, TED, and countless others). The ‘now you know‘ approach in these documentary styled clips is very popular and topics range from historical to scientific, religious to political, business to education, and anything in between. This particular video’s title spoke of the evils of pharmaceutical companies taking monetary advantage over consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The video was presented in an educational format, laid out its framework, and built the argument upon that foundation. But, the presenter’s peppy, yet bitter, even passive aggressive, demeanor, coupled with his rapid-fire jabs at any opposition to what he believes, turned whatever truth about pharmaceutical companies into a mouthful of arrogance and degradation upon my 1st watch and subsequent re-watching. Of note, this was despite my personal views not aligning with either his or those opinions and holders of such that he disparages.
The majority of what the video wove in had little (or nothing) to do with exposing a pharmaceutical company taking unfair advantage of uncontrollable global circumstances. The presenter seems to have simply used this video as a conveyance to distribute an imbalanced political world-view and promote a hatred & bitterness towards a certain group of human beings. His conveyance of this matter (no matter how truthful the business aspect of his video was) did nothing to heal deep divides and everything to further the disparities that are splitting the world.
So why bring this up?
Many of the bite-sized ‘educational’ videos found across YouTube & other platforms are unwitting carriers to carefully re-train us into a certain unquestioning mindset, while giving us ‘knowledge candy’ to savor while doing so. Tweet
Q. So, what are you saying we are being trained to do or think by these videos? A. To think of certain groups of people with contempt & hostility while truly fooling ourselves into thinking we are just helping these people rise to our level of enlightenment and understand ‘the facts’.
Not only does this demean others and cause greater rifts among us, but it slams the door on the Gospel and any avenue we may have to share it with others who may be on the other side of that divide. Romans 12:17-19 reminds us that we are to live, ‘Never paying back evil for evil to anyone, respecting what is good in the sight of all men, if possible, so far as it depends on you, being at peace with all men, never taking your own revenge, beloved—instead leave room for the wrath of God.’
Do you spend your days viewing these videos? Does this sound a bit over-reactive? The video I watched premises much of the argument on this statement regarding COVID-19, ‘Thanks to a combination of our cult of capitalism and weaponized idiocy of a certain type of person, the United States has officially made the situation far worse than it ever needed to be.’ It goes on to say, sarcastically, ‘Forget the at risk people in other countries who caught the disease despite their best efforts. Let’s waste these treatments on the idiots who think the virus is a Chinese Communist Democrat hoax and who will go right back out without a mask as soon as they leave the hospital.’ (Ref. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcXkXknzmwc) It truly has no bearing on a believer’s views on COVID-19 crisis or it’s handling to understand that this attitude is completely incompatible with a Biblical understanding of those created in the image of God. (see Gen. 1:27) This type of sentiment encourages a prioritization scale of compassion & life based on the recipient’s thoughts. It is saying that if someone thinks a certain way, they really should not be helped. I want to get into the nitty gritty here, as a believer, and ask why, again as believers, we would entertain these types of sentiments by promoting these videos? Why would followers of Jesus Christ endorse (much less adopt these views) when they are so antithetical to the Christ-honoring & Scripture saturated lives we are called to live? The same applies unequivocally to any content that encourages beliefs so out of line with Scripture, whether it be coming from TED talks, InfoWars monologues, Second Thought sessions, PragerU videos, or BigThink productions. Let’s put it this way: if we endorse or adopt the mentality that some people are so far gone in their way of thinking that we should cast them aside, how can we possibly love them enough to share the Gospel with them? Matthew 28 famously sums out our calling. ‘And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”’
CNN host Van Jones, a commentator I would seldom agree with on anything, in a rare move, stepped back and viewed his own political viewpoint and saw an ugly truth. Liberals, he said, ‘basically treat red states the same way that colonizers treat Third World Countries. “These are ignorant backwaters in the south, full of unwashed, uneducated, dumb people. And what we need to do is convert them to our NPR religion and force-feed them some kale so they can actually rise to our level!”‘ He goes on to lament to others who share his political views, ‘Do you hear yourself?’ (Ref. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFfWv0EnHQw&t=162s) But this is precisely what so many of these ‘mind expanding’ videos are doing. Now, this is not to say all these ‘fix the world’ videos are bent on converting the cultural pariahs (‘the dumb folk’) into those who have ‘arrived’. But, a lot are.
Countless of these informative clips that are very popular right now seem to have one notable massive draw, which is also a flaw. Not only do the clips usually strike one or two chords and say a thing or two that we strongly resonate with but feel we haven’t been able to articulate (giving us a false sense of trust in the presenter), but they also appeal to the disgruntled and victim nature that we, as carnal humans, have a strong tendency towards. Think about it. If we have a really tough day at work and we then hear a radio DJ on the way home mention something about the rising percentage of those burned out by their jobs, how likely is it that we will respond will a heart-felt verbal affirmation and ‘listen on’? We feel we have found a fellow sufferer in the radio DJ and are far more likely to let our natural guard down and trust subsequent things he says even if they aren’t true. These videos also present their suppositions, views, and judgements as actual facts, which we will often resonate with in some way, in the first few moments of each video and then base everything else in the video off of that groundwork, which, in many of these short videos, is not truly interested in fact or neutrality. Time & again, like much of entertainment & media available, these, too, are also being used as carriers, nudging us to sneer at or even demonize certain people.
In an age of information, this is an unpopular view, even among Christians.
Finally, if nothing above has given cause to give a second look at the content being pushed out in by a world that we know hates truth and it’s Author, I hope you can at least take this away from what I’m saying. These ‘educational’ info-videos, churned out by pop up producers & universities, make us feel like we have arrived at the only sound conclusion by our own accord and on our own analysis of these ‘facts’. The bankruptcy of this situation is that there is very little analysis and truth seeking we have done here and, instead, we are simply holding, now, to the very same conclusion that the producers hold.
What do I mean? When consumed in the manner with which they are produced, these inside scoop clips end up making us feel smarter and enlightened at the end, when in actuality, we have just been indoctrinated.
So what do we do?
Instead of spending untold hours seeking a new piece of knowledge that has little or nothing to do with our loving, holy, and omniscient God, we fill our minds with the mind of God: His Word! We immerse ourselves in the lives of brothers & sisters in Christ. We commune in prayer with our Savior. We sing! These videos are often the auto-playing unlimited downfall of truth-seekers and those that seek to amass information. Bible teacher, John MacArthur has this to say about the seemingly endless stream of knowledge & entertainment available to us. ‘As Christians, our worldview must be grounded in reality, not in the imaginary worlds of Hollywood. People can deny reality, and they can distract themselves with fantasy, but they cannot change the fact that one day they will stand before God (Hebrews 9:27). At that moment, the riches, pleasures, and accomplishments of this world will be of no use to them.’ Granted, the pursuit of knowledge is likely a more worthy pursuit than fantasy, riches, and pleasures. But Scripture warns us of pitfalls with this type of propensity, particularly unchecked. Don’t become like those in Romans 1:21-23, ‘For even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the likeness of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.‘ or Isaiah 5:21, ‘Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and understanding in their own sight!‘ And in 1 Corinthians 3:18-20, ‘Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.”’