“Who was the guy who played Cassian?” I asked my sister. “He looked familiar.”
“The credits say Diego Luna,” my sister replied, pointing at the screen. “But that means nothing to me.”
Since the lights were up, we retrieved our smartphones, looked up Diego Luna, and scrolled through his movie credits. He had starred in Open Range, one of our favorite Westerns. Mystery solved, thanks to the Internet.
I’m old enough to remember life before the Internet. In those days, finding answers to trivial or even important questions took a lot longer and was occasionally impossible without the help of a skilled reference librarian.
But the world has changed. When used correctly, the Internet provides the average, economically-challenged writer access to information that previously would have required a trip to an out-of-town or even out-of-country library.
Case in point: I’m currently writing book 4 of my Time-Traveling Twins series. The book is set in Massachusetts in 1777 and involves a murder. While plotting the story, I recognized I knew nothing about colonial law, especially criminal law involving suspicious death. Tempted as I was to assume eighteenth-century-American legal proceedings would resemble an episode of Law and Order, I resisted.
Time to research. I checked out several books from the library, asked a few lawyer friends for help, and looked for the perfect legal reference book to answer all my questions. None gave me the information I needed. Unfortunately, my schedule and finances do not allow me the time off to visit law libraries in Boston or the money to pay an expert for his or her time.
But then the Internet provided the answers I needed. I found a site with detailed information about eighteenth-century New England coroner’s inquests, suspicious death investigations, early American law enforcement, and murder trial legal proceedings.
In another plot point, I needed the sleuth of my series to write notes while sitting on the steps of a building. Since balancing an open bottle of ink, a quill, and paper in her lap seemed messy, I wondered if she could use a pencil. But did pencils exist in 1777?
A quick Internet search revealed that pencils were popular in Colonial America, but the war with England cut off pencil supplies from Europe, which meant my sleuth would have had trouble finding one. It was a good thing I looked pencils up, or I could have alienated many readers.
Part of my day job involves editing and fact-checking stories and articles written by others. What follows is a hypothetical example of what I encounter daily.
A writer sent me a story about a father and son discussing the meaning of life while they changed the oil of the family car. I have never changed a car’s oil, but something about the process seemed wrong.
In less than ten seconds, typing “how to change oil in a car” in my Internet browser yielded over 14 million results. I only needed to skim one article to know the writer knew less about oil changes than I did. Fact check fail.
Every day I encounter paid writers who brazenly claim “Spanish is the official language of Brazil” or “the Hawaiian Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean.” I’m not sure what hurts more: writers’ laziness, their arrogance in believing they don’t need to research facts, or their assumption that the reader will blindly accept any fallacy as truth.
Recently, I was watching a late-night talk show when one of the guests commented flippantly, “What would Jesus do?” He and the audience laughed at this joke. After all, there was no way to answer this question.
Or was there?
The show’s host, a professed Christian, blinked and after a brief pause replied, “I don’t know, but I’ll ask Him.”
We don’t have to be ignorant about who Jesus is or what He would do. The Bible makes clear that we can ask Jesus for the information we need. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (NKJV)
The Bible also makes clear that God intended the Bible to answer our questions and address our concerns. Paul, in 1 Timothy 3:16 and 17, says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteous, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (NKJV)
If I want to know what Jesus would do in any given situation, all I have to do is ask and read my Bible--either the app on my phone or the leather-bound Bible on my desk. I recognize this is a simplistic response because God’s answers to life’s hard questions aren’t always easy to find or understand. But too often, we don’t even bother to look for those answers. Like the writers at my day job, we get lazy, we become arrogant in our own wisdom, or we think the truth doesn’t really matter anyway.
There’s no excuse for writers who say Mars is the closest planet to the sun (it’s Mercury, in case you were wondering). There’s also no excuse for Christians who say God has NOT given us clear instructions or messages that apply to our daily lives. He has. He gave us an entire book of answers.
A search for “free Bible” in my Internet browser yielded over 18 million results. It makes me wonder if Jesus knew I might be searching for Him there.
“You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJV)