Knowing what’s false and what’s true on the internet isn’t easy, even if we’re being careful. There’s a chance you might do your homework and share something that some people will try argue is fake. You might look into something and find several sources that say it’s wrong, but on closer study you conclude it’s not. But there are instances of news stories that are flat out false, with not a shred of evidence or truth behind them. And there are people, some who claim the name of Christ, who are buying in and reposting. So here are four thoughts on fake news stories from a Christian perspective.
Emotional Christians are Gullible Christians.
Satan’s masterstroke of misleading, isolating, and weakening Christians in America is now paying off. He has fooled many gullible Christians into sharing undeniably false news stories and in so doing the testimony of Christ has been tarnished. I see so many links to false sites all over my Facebook feed. Often times they are shared by otherwise intelligent people and yet they share a link to an article with the headlines like “Hillary Clinton LIED to us all” or “Donald Trump gets DESTROYED by the CIA.” (By the way, if a word is an all caps it’s probably not true).
So why do so many people share this stuff? More importantly, why do so many within the church share this stuff? Primarily they share it because of confirmation bias. Many Christians feel uncomfortable right now. They look into their imaginary crystal balls and think that since our place in society is being questioned it’s only a matter of years before our religious rights become forfeit. This very well may be the case but it doesn’t excuse us from the truth. Fake news doesn’t make your position stronger it actually weakens it! The Bible calls us to walk with integrity and honest (Proverbs 28:18). We are to face all challenges with wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 16:16). This means you can’t lead with your emotions. Take a deep breathe, think, and above all pray! If Christians can’t be trusted to be truthful, how can we ever hope to share the Truth of God’s Word!?
Sadly, when you call people out for sharing fake news they often get angry rather than being reasonable about it. This confirms the very reason why they shared it in the first place – They are too emotionally invested! So the next time you are tempted to click “share,” pause .. breathe deeply … think before you click ... and most importantly pray!
Sometimes the Truth Contradicts Our Passions.
Christians are passionate people, and commendably so! But when we allow our passion to drive us instead of the truth, the line between what we want to be true and what is actually true is often blurred. It is within our sinful nature to gravitate toward information sources that share our passion, regardless of their veracity. To take a very extreme example, if you are passionately opposed to President Obama, and you come across a picture of him wearing a Turban, holding an AK-47, and standing in front of an ISIS flag with the caption, “Obama’s Past FINALLY EXPOSED! This CHANGES EVERYTHING!” (There are those pesky all caps again), you might be tempted to share it. Why? It’s not because you know he’s an Islamic extremist; it’s because you want him to be an Islamic extremist. The claim is in accordance with your passions, and is therefore accepted as fact without a second thought.
As Christians, we should be sobered by the dangers of being driven by our passion. 2 Timothy 4:3 says that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” As a result, they “wander off into myths” (v. 4). It is within our human natures to surround ourselves with voices that tell us only what we want to hear. There may be causes for which you feel strongly, but when you allow those causes to drive you, the truth often gets neglected. Articles are shared without verification; false narratives are passed along without research; the ‘cause’ is promoted at the expense of the truth. So how do you guard against this manifestation of human nature? By making the truth your passion, even if it makes your political party look bad, hurts your reputation, or causes you to lose an argument. A passion for the truth calls for a discerning eye and a balanced suspicion. Don’t share a news story just because you “could totally see this being true,” but instead allow God’s passion for the truth to become your passion as well.
Sharing Fake Stories Dishonors the God of Truth.
There is a cosmic war going on between the God of Truth and the Father of lies. Christ sums up this battle quite well in John 8:44-45: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” God never lies. God is never untruthful. And God desires that we reflect this same characteristic of honesty in every area of our lives, even our social media.
Often our desires are the best, and many are genuinely unaware that what they are posting isn’t true. But when we propagate falsehood, even unintentionally, we are inadvertently helping the cause Satan. God doesn’t need fake news stories to look good, or to win anything. In this battle for the hearts and minds of people, God refuses to cheat, or take shortcuts. And when we, as His representatives, share stories that are flat out false without doing any checking we reflect a God that is manipulative, conniving, and more concerned with getting what He wants than with the truth, whether we mean to or not. And that is not the God we serve.
Truth Liberates Us. Truth Holds Us Captive.
Human beings, in just about their basest element, are truth-seekers. Knowing how things are or how things ought to be is a fundamental inclination of our imaginations. We desire that nothing be hidden from us and that ignorance be a thing of the past. The truth is, however, that we all have been deceived… From the outset of human history, the drama of God’s redemptive story began as a counteroffensive to the lies of Satan that have confounded mankind. The Scriptures say that our understanding has been darkened as a result of this deception, and our sin nature has brought conflict so much so that we must wrestle for the truth and we must wrestle with the truth as well. The desperate realization that we are even able to deceive ourselves has placed every person on a desperate hunt for what is true.
The words of Jesus in John 8 make a staggering claim: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Much to the annoyance of a watching world, we Christians are compelled to believe that mankind’s passion for truth is bent up in man’s conflict with sin. Jesus isn’t simply referring to a specific issue of deception when He makes this claim, he is saying that nothing in life is as it should be because of sin, and that ultimately truth can only be found in Him. This truth is liberating, for no longer is a person a slave to the deceptions of sin. However, this is also a truth that makes you a captive. You become a captive to a straight and narrow way of life (Matt. 7:13-14). But this life is one that the Lord Himself describes as “rest for [our] souls” (Matt. 11:29-30). I, for one, would happily be a captive to a Lord of such compassion!
You see, whatever it is that you display as truth you become a captive to. Now, that may make posting or sharing anything sound dangerous, and the truth is… it is dangerous . We all must be careful with what we say and with how we say it because we all must give an answer for the things we do and say in life, and we answer to no one higher than the Lord of Truth Himself, Jesus Christ.
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