Watching the news, scanning social media or talking to people on the phone, I am constantly hearing a word that I have been taking for granted my whole life.
That word is an EXPERT. Will Rogers described an expert as “A man fifty miles from home with a briefcase.”
According to the dictionary, An expert is someone who has broad and deep competence in terms of knowledge, skill, and experience through practice and education in a particular field. This is usually someone who, historically, has worked over 10,000 hours in a particular field with a very specific domain. Below an Expert is a SPECIALIST, who also has dedicated knowledge of a very specific domain but not quite the same level of experience.
Next comes LAYPERSON, someone employed in the field with general knowledge of the domain in question.
Lastly, come those with a passing knowledge of a topic learned through random study, misinformation and unfounded opinions. Let’s refer to those as MEDIA.
Unfortunately, these terms are getting blurred in today’s society. The term EXPERT is getting thrown around way too often. On many news stories that I have heard over the last couple of weeks, the only sources listed are a casually “EXPERTS SAY” as in “EXPERTS SAY you should wash your hands, eat more kale, shave your pets, start a herb garden, etc.” There is no mention of WHO these EXPERTS are or where they learned their knowledge. It seems like we are all now playing a nationwide game of “EXPERTS SAY”, similar to Simon Says in which you can only follow direction if the caller states “Simon Says” first.
The problem with this is now we have multiple EXPERTS and they are all recommending different courses of action. For example, our church was told by our municipality that we could not hold a food drive in our parking lot to support the local food pantry. The reason was it was deemed unsafe given the current pandemic. A mere 48 hours later, a local news station reported a similar food drive taking place in a neighboring town. They were given a blessing by their local government because it was not putting others at risk.
In both cases, the people making decisions were not Experts, Specialists or even Laypeople. No, they are only in AUTHORITY. This is another area of confusion for us. People in AUTHORITY are supposed to listen to the EXPERTS, refer to the SPECIALISTS, and hire the LAYPERSON to their staff for counsel. In this scenario, critical information can get from the EXPERT (the person who knows the solution) to the AUTHORITY (the person who can implement the solution).
As I watch this crisis unfold, I’ve noticed that there is a divide between the two sides. The AUTHORITY wants desperately to hold on to their control and doesn’t want to be seen as simply a puppet of the EXPERTS. The EXPERTS, on the other hand, know what needs to be done and are frustrated when their advice is not implemented. In addition, both sides are veering out of their respective lanes, trying to convince us all that those in authority are EXPERTS and vice-versa.
I find this struggle interesting as a history buff, mostly because this same scenario has been played out countless times in the past. Those in AUTHORITY claimed they were EXPERTS and started wars, holocausts and committed genocidal atrocities in the name of their expertise. EXPERTS tried to issue orders that caused confusion and chaos, like the Y2K scare.
I don’t think AUTHORITY and EXPERT will ever get together on the same page. Human nature will never allow that. People are in charge because they have the layperson’s ability to understand how best to maintain control of society while still allowing people free will. Those with specific knowledge usually underestimate the crowd mentality and how the masses will react in given situations.
I find it very interesting that I am thinking of this the day after Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for many Christians. The focus of this week is on Jesus Christ, probably the only person in history who has both the AUTHORITY and the EXPERTISE. He understands his creation, inside and out. Not only did he, as part of the Trinity (FATHER, SON, SPIRIT), create each and every one of us, he took on flesh and became one of us. He experienced hunger, thirst, joy, sadness and all those billion other thoughts and feelings we call the human condition. He is the EXPERT on how we should live, think and love.
Jesus, as part of the Trinity, is also the ultimate AUTHORITY. God has given us a law, one we can not possibly obey. He shows us how far apart we are from his holiness. He will judge us at the end on how well we lived up to His expectations. Unfortunately, none of us can meet HIS criteria and we will all be found guilty and condemned to death.
The GOOD news is that because of what we celebrate on EASTER, we will not be condemned. Jesus’s death and resurrection establish Him as the ultimate EXPERT and AUTHORITY in our lives since He won us back from death and ensures our eternal life.
In this time of clashes between the EXPERTS and the AUTHORITY, don’t you think now we be a good time to follow the one who is BOTH?!
Prayer: Dear Jesus, you are the ultimate EXPERT and AUTHORITY. Grant me discernment when I listen to “Advice” of others, regardless of their expertise or authority. Help me keep one eye on your word at all times. In your name we pray, Amen.
If these words have impacted you, please feel free to Comment and Share
Participate in Holy Week Services at Hales Corners Lutheran online