I am fascinated with trivia. Twice a day I receive an email from triviahive.com, asking a trivia question with four choices that I rarely guess right. Perhaps I am attracted to trivia because most of my life is dedicated to what seems to be the opposite of trivia. Every day when I rise, I prioritize what is most important to address that day according to my mission statement, which is “to love God and allow God to use me to make a positive difference in the world. I vow to take care of myself and my family, serve those in my local church and seek to bring in the Kingdom for all of God’s children.” Always keeping the big picture in the forefront helps me to make wise choices about my time and energy.
At the same time, trivia can be good for you. According to the Journal of the American Association of School Librarians, trivia games engage the mind in ways that enhance cognitive and brain development. I learn a lot of interesting things from trivia, like these fun facts from Politico Magazine’s Dec. 31, 2015 Trivia quiz:
- Which movie has Ted Cruz quoted extensively on the campaign trail? The Princess Bride
- Bernie Sanders has one of the most distinctive voices in politics. In 1987 he put his Brooklyn honk to music. Whose songs did he record? Pete Seeger
- Hillary Clinton hit the road in a van to Iowa after she announced her candidacy. She stopped at a Chipotle in Maumee, Ohio, wearing sunglasses and was captured by surveillance cameras. What did she order? A chicken burrito bowl
- According to Donald Trump’s book,The Art of the Deal, what kind of colors does he like the most? Earth tones
- Marco Rubio’s wife, Jeanette, once was a cheerleader for which NFL team? Miami Dolphins
Trivia is not always trivial, however, especially if one sees beyond the definition of trivia as pieces of information that are of little importance or value. The testimony of trivia is that it can also enhance spiritual development. Trivia not only stops me in my tracks at times, but it can point me to reality – and beyond to the kingdom of God.
How many photos are uploaded to Facebook every day?
350 million (Source: USA Today)
Reality check: I guessed 42 million, obviously underestimating how Facebook and other forms of social media fulfill the longing for human connection and freedom of expression.
What percentage of U.S. households owns a gun?
38% of American households own at least one gun. (Source: CNN)
Reality check: Of the four options, I guessed 27%. The U.S. has the largest number of guns per capita in the world (112 per 100 people), which is 50% more than the next highest country, Cyprus. Why are we such a gun-crazy nation?
- What was the poverty level for a family of four in 2015 in the U.S.?
$24,250 (Source: US Census Bureau)
Reality check: I guessed $32,000. How could 47.7 million American families survive on less than $24,250 a year, let alone thrive?
- How much money do millennials in America have in savings?
51% of millennials have less than $1,000 in their bank accounts.
Reality check: I guessed $12,000, so once more, I was way off. But it’s worse than I thought. 62% of all adults have less than $1,000 in their bank accounts. What is the connection between not saving, low-paying jobs and poverty?
- How tall was John Wesley?
At about 5 feet, 3 inches tall, Wesley was below average in height for a male.
Reality check: I knew this one! Surely, the many horses Wesley rode for 250,000 miles over his lifetime appreciated his slight build.
- What effect will Spotlight winning the Oscar for Best Picture and Lady Gaga singing ‘Till It Happens to You have on exposing the tragedy of sexual abuse in our world?
Reality check: 62,939 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2012. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Criminal Victimization Survey, in 2012 there were 346,830 reported rapes or sexual assaults of persons twelve years or older.
It’s easy to ignore, deny or trivialize injustice, prejudice and inequality when we are not aware of or deliberately ignore the facts. Trivia becomes testimony when it draws attention to important truths that we need to know in order to be faithful Christ-followers.
Jesus reserved his harshest criticism for the Jewish religious leaders, who majored in minors by following the letter of the Law and mocking the law of love. “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill and cummin, and have neglected weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith… Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23)
At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus introduced his mission when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth to preach and quoted Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
- Trivia question: What part of Isaiah 61:1-2 did Jesus not quote in the synagogue in Nazareth?
Verse 2b: “to proclaim … the day of vengeance of our God.”
Why did Jesus appear to omit this phrase? Could it be that Jesus did not believe that God was a God of vengeance? Could it be that Jesus only knew God as a God of love and lived his life accordingly? When others treated the poor and oppressed as trivial, of little importance, Jesus saw them as the heart of the Kingdom of God. The trivial represented real live people: lepers, outcasts, widows, orphans, the unclean and the disenfranchised. Trivia exposes us, convicts us and testifies to the big picture of God’s love where each person has value.
Are statistics mere fodder for politicians? Or does trivia testify to the desperate need for people of faith to live out their call by reclaiming the big picture of love? The irony is that we cannot often see the big picture until we are aware of the trivia – story after story of how God’s love can change the world.
Richard Rohr has written, “God simply wants mirroring images of God to live on this earth and to make the divine visible. That is, of course, the way love works. It always overflows, reproduces, and multiplies itself. God is saying, as it were, ‘All I want are icons and mirrors out there who will communicate who I am, and what I’m about.’”
By testifying on behalf of those whom others treated as mere trivia, Jesus taught his disciples to love without condition. So Jesus holds up the mirror for you and me. Can we live each day as if no one is trivial in God’s economy? Can we make the divine visible by refusing to strain at unnecessary gnats and instead overflow, reproduce and multiply grace, faith and hope?
- Trivia question: Where does the phrase “strain at a gnat” come from?
Hint: Jesus said it.