Friday, January 30, 2009

The Gossip Game

I love my son, but sometimes I just don't believe a word he says.

He comes home from school and tells me that kids are selling cocaine on his bus!

Yeah, cocaine.

While that is possible these days . . . keep in mind that my son is in second grade (at the time of this post).

Second grade.


C'mon now

In a town that has virtually no major crime reported.

In the second grade!

C'mon, now.

So, naturally, I start asking questions.
  • me: How do you know they were selling cocaine, son? (keeping a straight face)
  • son: The bus driver said it. (remember that statement . . .)
  • me: The bus driver?
  • son: Yeah, the bus driver wrote them up and then suspended them from school.
  • me: That's an extraordinary claim, son. Do you know what I mean when I say this?
  • son: No . . . . . *shakes his head*
  • me: What if I told you I saw a purple dog flying through the sky while wearing a cape? Would you believe me -- even if I really sounded serious about it?
  • son: No . . .
  • me: That's what I mean by an extraordinary claim, son. So, tell me what happened. Start from the beginning.
  • son: Well, K stood up on the bus and shouted.
  • me: Uh-huh . . . so, what did he say?
  • son: K was talking loud about J. and said that J's name sounded like a girl's name -- but J. is a boy. The whole bus heard and everybody started laughing.
  • me: OK. What next?
  • son: J got mad at K.
  • me: Why was K bothering J?
  • son: K was just being mean. Making fun . . .
  • me: So . . . . what next?
  • son: The bus driver stopped the bus and went to the back. Then J got written up. I think he got suspended.
  • me: Why did J get into trouble? He was being picked on . . .
  • son: He put up his middle finger to K.
  • me: Oh, I see . . . J threw the bird atK. (sounds like K asked for it . . .)
  • son: Yeah . . .
  • me: So, did K get into trouble?
  • son: No.
  • me: No? Hmmm . . . that's sounds unfair. OK, well . . . what next?
  • son: The bus driver got back into his seat and started driving again . . .
  • me: OK, then what?
  • son: That's it.
  • me: *incredulous silence*
  • me, again: Where does cocaine fit into all of this?
  • son: L said that they were selling something in the back of the bus.
  • me: Was this during all the commotion between J and K?
  • son: No . . . but a few days ago our bus driver said we shouldn't sell things to each other on the bus.
  • me: I don't care about a few days ago. I mean, I'm not disputing that you shouldn't sell things. I'm not disputing what your bus drive said. But, I want to know about today and you're claim that someone sold cocaine.
  • me, again: Did you even see anyone sell anything?
  • son: No . . . I was sitting in the front of the bus.
  • me: Son, do you even know what cocaine looks like?
  • son: It looks like cigarettes.
  • me: How do you know?
  • son: Well . . . that's just my opinion.

Yeah, my son and I have had the "fact and opinion" talk.
He's slowly learning to call things his opinion if he knows he doesn't have any facts to back up what he's saying.

I guess he's still learning this lesson, huh?

  • me: So far, only J is in trouble. Did anyone else get into trouble? Did anything else go on?
  • son: K got in trouble for selling.
  • me: You know this because?
  • son: L said they were selling stuff.
  • me: Who is L?
  • son: The girl that was sitting with me on the bus. We were sitting up front together.
  • me: How did L see what was going on and you couldn't? You were both in the front of the bus.
  • me: Anyhow, did you stop to think that K got in trouble for taunting J, while J got in trouble for throwing the bird. After all, you said that K shouted loudly. The whole bus heard him. He didn't go unnoticed by the bus driver. It makes sense that they would both get into trouble. Wouldn't you agree?
  • son: Yeah, I guess he would have gotten in trouble, too. They were both really mad at each other and causing a ruckus.
  • me: So, where does the cocaine fit in all of this? Is this something you only heard from L? You said that the bus driver said this, too. Is that really true?
  • son: The bus driver was really mad and told everybody on the bus to shut up because we were so loud.
  • me: Are you trying to say that because he was so mad, they were selling cocaine?? Did youpersonally hear the bus drive say anything about cocaine?
  • son: No . . .
  • me: Son, I have one more question . . . why should you believe what L has to say? I didn't believe you because you gave sketchy information. If I L were here to make the same claims you originally made, I'd ask her the same sort of questions I just asked you. I wouldn't believe her, either -- especially if she gave me the same kind of answers you gave. So, why should you believe what she has to say about this?
  • son: *sits quietly* (Imagine that!)
  • me: I'm not fussing at you, son. I'm not even accusing you of lying. I just want you to think more about what people tell you, before you go spreading around potentially harmful rumors to everyone else. OK?
  • son: Okay . . .

That discourse got me to thinking: Is fundamental Christianity a harmful rumor that everyone keeps spreading? Is Evangelical Christianity really the Gospel, or just a huge Gossip Game? Why believe the sketchy information of the Bible and the extraordinary claims of 2000 year old stories without at least some question?

If you do believe the stories, that's certainly your prerogative. But at the very least, check up on your facts from history, first. Otherwise, you're only playing the Gossip Game.

And remember . . . rumors can produce a lot of hurt.
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