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Editorial: Drop the memes, pick up a book

Abraham Lincoln, America’s 16th president, had an extensive knowledge of Scripture. Raised in a home where the Bible was taught and church attendance was compulsory, Lincoln often referred to certain passages and spoke reverently of God. 

Yet more than 135 years after his death, historians and religious scholars continue to debate his views on God and religious beliefs. Why? Certainly there can be no doubt when one looks at his eloquent words? 

A popular internet meme includes a fake quote from Abraham Lincoln.

A popular internet meme includes a fake quote from Abraham Lincoln.

The truth is that, like all of us, Lincoln was a work in progress until the end of his days. He spent his life searching for truth in the Bible, yes, but also in a host of places incompatible with its teachings. He was honest, well-read, brilliant and flawed. Human.

Much can be learned from what we know of Lincoln’s years in public life, especially his leadership opposing slavery. More can be gleaned from looking deeper into his 56 years and the events that shaped and defined them. 

The same is true for any subject, of course. We have at our fingertips countless books containing more information than ever before in history — vast amounts of it for free through partnerships with libraries and universities. Digitally, we can access credible, sourced research materials worldwide and delve into any area that interests us.

Yet our collective attention span is short — so much so that we consider memes on social media educational and turn on cable news in the name of information-gathering. We cherry-pick the best jabs and freely share those as our new points of view without any humility or kindness, hoping for maximum impact. No verification or citations? None required, apparently. 

We cherry-pick the best jabs and freely share those as our new points of view without any humility or kindness, hoping for maximum impact.

In other words, we propagate what is catchy and clever. Anything that props up our views, incites fear or promotes our politics really gets people talking. After all, we know best, and it is our duty to share and educate others.

In actuality, we’re being used, and we’re educating no one — least of all ourselves. We simply are the conduit. It is those with an audience and reach who are profiting, and we’re doing them a favor by parroting their platform to those in our circles of influence.

A Pew Research Study released in 2019 found that more than a quarter of adults in the U.S. hadn’t read a book on any subject, in any form, in the previous year. This is troubling from many angles. As Christians who believe one book is our guide, however, this statistic should be our call to action. 

Make the rest of 2020 a time to read, think and learn. Rather than relying on social or broadcast media, make the conscious choice to pick up or download a book (and don’t forget to spend plenty of time in the Book). Look for credible material authored by those with knowledge and expertise in the field. If the work is science- or medical-related, choose peer-reviewed articles printed in journals or publications respected in those areas. 

Sharing these things later is optional. Lincoln managed to leave a legacy without social media followers. Any minds he changed in the course of his life’s work were managed because he treated people with kindness and respect and made personal connections with as many as he could.

Filed under: Abraham Lincoln Editorial Editorial journalism Meme Opinion read a book Top Stories

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