Last Tuesday Donald Trump met with a few hundred evangelical leaders in New York City. Following the meeting, James Dobson, Focus on the Family founder, was interviewed by Pennsylvania minister Michael Anthony. During the interview Dobson said that Trump had recently come “to accept a relationship with Christ.”
Dobson was vague about the details of Trump’s supposed religious conversion. “I don’t know when it was,” said Dobson, “but it hasn’t been long.”
Now Dobson is “walking back” that claim. He now says that he does not know for sure. But surprisingly revealed the person who supposedly lead Trump to Christ was Paula White, described by one writer as “a noted prosperity gospel heretic.” White, who is divorced from her huckster husband, Randy White, has been under investigation by the IRS and has been accused of having an inappropriate relationship with fellow charlatan Benny Hinn.
Dr. Dobson, who is a well-respected author, psychologist, and conservative leader has damaged his credibility by carelessly passing on unverified information as factual. Dobson has been widely ridiculed by his peers as an “uncritical partisan dupe.”
Dobson’s embarrassing blunder is a vivid reminder to all of us who preach, teach and write publicly to get our facts straight. Verify our sources. And report accurately, fairly, and honestly.
This also applies to posts on social media sites like facebook and twitter, or forwarding emails calling for action against supposed evil. I have seen ridiculous accusations made against Presidents, preachers and political pundits that have no basis in fact. Yet, are forwarded or posted by well-meaning Christians wanting to “get the word out.”
Stories, quotations or speeches are often incorrectly attributed to certain sources to give them validity. Once they hit the internet, it’s difficult to stop them. Thus you must take the time to check for accuracy.
The Bible commands Believers to “have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2Cor 8:21). In all of our communication we must “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to (our) neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). The wise man expressed it bluntly and succinctly when he said, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Prov. 12:22).
To be clear, I’m not accusing good and godly people of purposely spreading innuendoes and untruths. I’m sure much of the misinformation is well-intended, if not misguided. But we need to be careful not to be duped by deceivers. Interestingly, I’ve also observed that some folks have seriously shared posts from satirical web sites believing the story was true.
We need to remember when we see something that fits our personal, political or religious agenda that sounds a little too good to be true, it’s probably not true. Yet, there’s the temptation to post or forward anything because it supports what we believe. If it’s really worth sharing, it’s worth the time to fact check for accuracy.
I’m reminded of the quote attributed to Winston Churchill, “A lie can make it half-way around the world before truth has its pants on.” And that was prior to the internet and social media.
As author Spencer Johnson once wrote, “Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman