But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil~ Hebrews 5:14 NIV
Okay, so, regular readers of this blog are doubtless clued in to the fact that I have been burdened with an unusually large number of annoyances and pet peeves in this life. If you wish to get a clearer picture of the infinite number of irritants that plague me, simply type the words “peeves” and “rants” into the search bar at the bottom of the page. You will be immediately enlightened and have access to a wealth of really rant-y reading material.
Seriously. A lot of stuff bugs me.
Every time I write about a specific peeve I inevitably think that I have finally exhausted all the stuff I could write about that annoys me. Then low and behold I come across a new one. Such was the case this past week. I was casually scanning Facebook and I stumbled upon a “news” story with dozens of comments from people who were obviously Christians and suddenly a brand-spanking new peeve was born:
Gullible Christians and fake news.
Not that fake news is a new development (or gullibility, for that matter). Liberal media outlets and the president act as if fake news is a 21stcentury brainchild. It’s not. Fake news has existed since the dawn of time. I’m convinced that our cave-dwelling ancestors scratched misleading graffiti onto the walls of their caves in a deliberate effort to deceive the other hunter and gathers. Double-dealing and duplicity are central to our character as fallen creatures (John 8:44, Romans 1:25, Colossians 3:9).
It is not the fakeness of stories that bugs me. It’s the number of people (including many Christians) I see passing on obviously questionable news stories that make me crazy.
We are smarter than that.
Case in point: last week I found a story claiming that smallpox was discovered at the Southern border. There were so many logical problems with the story that it really shouldn’t have gotten a single share from anyone (it had a lot of shares). For example, if smallpox (one of the deadliest and most infectious diseases ever) ever made a comeback (it was officially eradicated in 1980) it would be big news and the entire country would be under quarantine. Besides, the picture was clearly (even to someone with zero medical training) a photo of someone with measles. Then there was the story that claimed there was a woman in California who proudly holds the world record for the most abortions ever. There is no such world-record. Furthermore, due to some issues with biology it would be fairly difficult for a thirty-four-year-old woman to have twenty-eight abortions in her lifetime.
Fake news is not simply a liberal fevered dream or a delusion the President is suffering from. It is a real problem that Christians ought to care about because when Christian people are not careful about what they share it causes four huge problems for all Christians and one potential problem that ought to terrify everyone:
Fake news makes Christians look like numbskulls-
It just does. Anytime we believe questionable stories enough to share them it makes Christians look dumb when the truth is exposed. Looking dumb does not further the cause of Christianity.
Fake stories make it harder for Christians to share stories that are true but kind of hard to believe-
Like the gospel. We really want people to believe the gospel because if they don’t they will go to hell (John 3:14-16). The gospel is a story about a God who came down from heaven; became a man, lived among people, preformed all kinds of miracles and then died in our place to pay the price for our sins. Then that God rose from the dead after three days in the grave (John 1:1-4). This story is one-hundred-percent true. That said, the Bible and I both concede that it is a hard story to believe (John 20:29, Mark 16:10-12, Luke 24:1-11). Christians who share off-the-wall stories can cause unsaved people to think that the gospel is just another one of those stories.
Fake stories oftentimes make Christians look meaner than we really are-
The story about smallpox on the border is a good example. Many who read the story believed that a conservative (perhaps even a Christian) made the story up because they hate brown people and want to make them look like filthy-disease-carrying-vermin. I know this is true because I read some of the comments (John 13:35). I also know a lot of Christians and none of them think any of those things about anyone.
When we share questionable stories, it reflects badly on Jesus-
We represent Jesus. If we look stupid, Jesus looks stupid (1stCorinthians 12:27).
If we don’t monitor ourselves the government will step in and “solve” this problem-
Government interference rarely “solves” anything and if they step in to “solve” this problem the biggest losers will be the 1stAmendment and the people.
I get that it’s easy to get excited when we come across a story that reinforces something we believe about the world (like abortion is out of control or unfettered immigration is hurting the country). However, we really need to stop and think before we share anything. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions before we hit the share button:
Is this story plausible?
Are other news outlets covering this story?
Do the views shared in this story represent Jesus well?
If you were not a Christian what would you think of this story?
When in doubt just don’t.