Out of Context and Out of Character

Justin Hopkins

This past weekend, the Eagles won their first Super Bowl. However, almost eclipsing that news, is the backlash from a commercial for Ram Trucks. The advertiser used a sound bite from one of MLK’s speeches as the centerpiece of their effort to sell a vehicle. The backlash has been swift and firm. Perhaps the greatest irony of all was that within that very speech Dr. King condemned the divisive tactics of automobile ads.

So much communication these days happens 140 characters at a time. That makes it easy take somebody’s words out of their original context and assign a meaning to them that they did not originally have. For example, one could quote from the Bible: “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5) “Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:37) That might make it appear Jesus encouraged suicide! Yet, when considered in its context, we realize that the two quotes are unrelated, and Jesus was encouraging mercy and kindness.

Whether you are watching a truck commercial, reading the Bible, or even a meme about waiting on the Lord and Eagles (hint: Jeremiah wasn’t talking about a football team). It is important to think critically about what is being said, where the information originated, and the intent of the original speaker or writer.

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