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Disheveled Theologian: Clickbait

“You’ll be amazed by what you see!”

“The truth will stun you.”

“These people were aghast when they heard this!”

“What do these Floridians eat every day for breakfast? You won’t believe the answer!”

Good grief!  Stop the presses and cull out the clickbait. I can’t stand the headlines!

I used to like words like “stunned” and “aghast”. Now they just feel sensational. It irritates me that some headline writer in some office somewhere is telling me what will amaze or stun me. Let me decide that for myself! And tell me, please, how could any breakfast be so incredible that I “won’t believe” what it is? I mean, really. Can any combination of calories be so fantastical that I “won’t believe” it?

I think not.

I might not agree with it. I might not approve of it. I might not like it.

But I don’t think I’ll be so flabbergasted that I can’t believe it.

Well, unless it’s like endangered panda and eagle soufflé. That I might find hard to believe.

My point is, I guess, that I dislike being manipulated. I dislike having my emotions dictated. If I choose to be “stunned,” so be it, but let me be the one who decides my own reaction.

In other words, let a headline tease the story to come. Not dictate an emotion.

And let’s face it, there are probably only a handful of times in my entire life when I’ve been truly “stunned” by something. Let alone “aghast”. And never, ever, have any of those times been precipitated by a clickbait headline.

And I’m willing to bet they never will.

I prefer my shocks to come from things closer to home. Like when my 10-year-old takes a shower without being told. That’s rather stunning. Or the socks all have mates when they come out of the dryer. (Not sure that’s ever happened.) Or my endangered panda and eagle soufflé rises perfectly and takes the exact amount of time in the oven that the recipe says it will take.

That would be a shock. On several levels.

Another form of shock I like comes from reading the same passage in the Bible that I’ve read maybe a hundred times or more, and suddenly something jumps out to me that I’ve never noticed before. I love that kind of shock. I love to be sitting there in the half-dark of a pre-dawn morning and read a verse or a phrase and just stop, my eyes wide, my brain suddenly alight with wonder. I’ll raise my head, stare at the window into the darkness, and just pause for a moment. Or several moments. Because out of the blue, I’ve been amazed. Amazed by the Word of God. Again.

And again.

God’s word is alive. When you read it, it reaches into your soul. It penetrates the stubbornness of your brain. It stuns us out of our stupor. It can make me aghast at my own depravity or elated at God’s gift of grace.

Give it a try. “You’ll be amazed by what you see!”

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12,13 NIV

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is