“But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.”
“Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.”
Jeremiah 7:8, 28 (NIV)
I walk this earthly journey in fascinating times.
With the dawn of the internet age, I have access to more words, information, and voices than any human being has ever experienced in history. It’s instantly accessible through the phone in my hand every minute of every day. With this phone I can constantly read and listen. Often when I can’t sleep I will stick an AirPod in my ear and listen to a voice reading a favorite story. Last week I woke up and remembered that, in my dream, there were two boys who amazed me because they were quoting long passages of one of my favorite stories from memory! The words from my phone, through my ear, were being regurgitated through my brain into my dreams.
As I stop to consider this amazing reality, I also observe that few people seem to be considering how this is changing our lives. Parents are concerned about screens, of course. Sociologists and experts are studying it, writing papers and books, and publishing articles. But any words or information posted, published, tweeted, or spoken now competes with all the information and entertainment available to every individual on the phone in their hand. Every person can listen and endlessly read whatever they desire. I think about this every morning when I hit the “Publish” button on these posts like a sower sowing his seed. How do you compete against the unlimited number of options every human being has at their fingertips?
As I read today’s chapter, the words of the ancient prophet Jeremiah felt eerily prescient to these fascinating times. He stood at the entrance to God’s Temple in Jerusalem and proclaimed the words God had given him. He did this even as God told him, “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you.”
I find it fascinating that in a time when we have more information at our fingertips than could have been been imagined just a generation ago, I observe the actual denial of facts and truths that have not been questioned in the history of humanity. With this unprecedented access to more words and knowledge I would think that profitable conversation and productive discourse would flourish. Instead, I observe in our culture the demand to abolish discourse, debate, and the free exchange of ideas under the misguided notion that words are hurtful and disagreement is violence.
Just this morning I read these words from a professor at one of the nation’s large universities. The academic described his observations of colleagues who:
“…work desperately to remain in a state of denial, not to think about the obvious. The exhausting labor of self-deception pushes them into more extreme behavior. Just as lies beget lies, self-deceptions metastasize into new self-deceptions.”
Please don’t read what I’m not writing. It’s the spiritual issues of my observations that are stirring my mind and soul in the quiet this morning. It is a spiritual matter that Jeremiah pokes at and that Jesus would address hundreds of years later. Those who have eyes don’t actually see. Those who have ears don’t actually hear. Simple truths are hidden from the “wise and learned” while perfectly understood by a mere child. Knowledge doesn’t lead to truth, but deception. As God said in today’s chapter through Jeremiah: “Instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.”
Immediate access to a smorgasbord of information, words, and voices does not necessarily lead to my increased knowledge or wisdom. It can also lead me to an intoxicating indulgence in only those voices, words, and ideas that affirm my darkest and most unhealthy inclinations. They can facilitate in me the same thing that tripped up Adam and Eve; I can be like God so as to create my own reality. I can easily follow my appetite for self-deception and self-justification by gluttonously feeding on an endless stream of affirming words and voices to the point that any words or voices of dissent become unbearable and send me repeatedly back to the buffet of voices who will tell me exactly what I want to hear and call it truth. As they do, they proclaim that doing so is loving, caring, kind, and good.
No matter how much the internet age has changed my access to information, words, and voices, what has never changed since the days of the ancient prophet Jeremiah is the human condition.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.