I am referring to the picture, though I could just as easily be referring to politicians, media heads, Twitterers, bloggers, Facebookers, mass murderers’ and their manifestos. In fact, lots of things. When I saw this picture today on my Flipboard feed, and the text asked that question above, what I actually thought about was people who are asked for their opinion about someone or something, and simply spew it, without defining terms or context. That’s stupid. That being said, how would you answer that question?
My best friend, who is also a Bible-believing Christian, and I were discussing why so many Christians don’t apply their faith to questions of life, politics, ethics, health and to their opinions. My take was….Actually, let’s do something else first, it will make my answer clearer. The question, which man is the most stupid, has no right answer, there’s too much information missing. Minimally, you would have to know: how high above the ground is each tree limb? What is the emotional state of each man? What does each intend? What led to each being on the tree? Those elements are part of the context. The point is, whatever answer you came up with without knowing the context, and the definition of stupid, says a lot about your thought processes, or lack thereof.
Aren’t appearances deceiving? Man #4 appears to be actively working to injure or kill himself, while man #1 appears to be oblivious to the danger he is in. One of my favorite aphorisms is, “there are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen (#4), those watch things happen (#1) and those who don’t even know something is happening (#3).” If the branches are two feet off the ground, the definition of stupid would be different than if the branches are 20 feet up. If #4 is indeed trying to kill himself, his action is not stupid if the tree limb is 20 feet up, but is stupid if it’s only two feet up. If he is merely trying to prune the tree without injury to himself, he is indeed the most stupid. But look at his facial expression. Could he be severely depressed, rather than merely stupid?
Most people would agree that #3 is the least stupid, but the most venal. After all, he’s trying to kill or injure two people, everyone else is just a danger to himself. Ah, but what if the limb he’s sawing is only 5 feet off the ground and both guys sitting on it are personal injury attorneys? They won’t be killed, and will probably sue the crap out of him. He also has no personal liability insurance, and inherited a lot of money, and has been in a running war of words for months with those attorneys. That total context makes him the most stupid. Now we come to man #1. What could possibly excuse his degree of oblivion? We can’t see what is to the left of the end of the branch. What if something is clamped on to the end, preventing his section from falling? That’s a reach, so what if the branch is two feet up and man #2 has offered him $100 to sit on the edge of the limb so it would break off sooner, saving #2 from too much sawing?
Obviously, I could invent a number of explanations for why any of these guys is the most stupid. But there’s a bigger, more important context for this question. People love to be asked for, and then to spew their opinions on just about anything, regardless of how uninformed their opinion is. Go to YouTube to see thousands of embarrassing mock interviews, where people are asked a question prefaced by “what do you think of…..?” The first impression will be, thinking isn’t part of the equation here. When was the last time you saw the interviewee ask for context or definitions? How about never; they just spew out their opinions like verbal vomit.
Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. Which are you? Very stupid question. What questions MUST be answered before either position makes any sense? What is human life? Why is it valuable to you (or is it)? When does human life, in the sense of a being worthy of protection for his or her life, begin? How do you know, or how did you decide? What is your source of authority for your answers: your own reason, your own feelings, or something larger than and outside of yourself? For me: since source of authority for my opinions actually comes first, and determines the validity of the opinions that follow, my source is the Bible, preferably the English Standard or King James translations. Human life is decreed and created by God before even the parents exist, (Psalm 139:13 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”) biologically begins when a spermatozoon fertilizes an egg in the uterus (conception).
Once that’s handled, my next questions would be, if you are pro choice, what is the choice you favor, and when should the choice be made? If you are pro life, whose life is on the line, and whose life takes precedence? It amazes me that people who call themselves “pro life”, which generally means they believe that human life begins at conception, can still rationalize allowing the incipient baby to be killed in the cases of rape and incest. If God creates life, what gives any human being, who was created, the right to take life? I say that only the giver of life has the right to take it. Now you can finally ask, do you then object to capital punishment? Once again I turn to the Bible. “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” Genesis 9:5-6
In the New Testament, Paul makes it clear that the sentence of death, if at all, is to be decreed and carried out by the civil magistrate–the law, the courts, the system–not by individuals. But then you counter, what about someone who was wrongly accused and unjustly tried, or who is innocent? “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” Deuteronomy 17:6-7.
Of course, none of my points fit into Twitter, Facebook or Instagram culture, nor will the YouTube interviews feature more than rote responses, but you, dear readers, don’t have to play someone else’s game. You can ask questions too, you can demand precise definitions and context, or you can be like man #1, a passive recipient of what others offer you.