The expression “fake news” has been in the news a lot lately.
Hillary Clinton recently gave a speech calling fake news “an epidemic” with “real world consequences.” No doubt she’s alluding to the so-called “Pizzagate” where a false news report spread an online rumor that her campaign had run a child sex ring at a pizza shop. The story led to a man with an assault rifle firing a shot into the Comet Ping Pong, the Washington shop falsely accused in the fake story.
President Obama has weighted in on the problem, as well as President-Elect Trump and all the talking heads. Ironically, the main-stream media is very concerned about the circulation of “fake news.”
Fake news has been around a long time. Remember chain letters? Then it was email scams. There are satirical web sites disseminating fake news that some have mistakenly thought was true and posted on their facebook page as factual. The Onion comes to mind, a farcical digital media company featuring satirical world, national and community news, Today they’re touting the top stories of 2016, including “Five Things You Need to Know About Pizzagate.”
There are at least a couple of lessons Christians can take away from the problem of “fake news.”
First of all, this reminds those of us who post on facebook, forward emails, and generally share information with others to be careful. Don’t repeat unfounded emails and unsubstantiated internet rumors. The Bible instructs us to honest, honorable and trustworthy in our speech and actions. (Prov 11:3; Eph 4:35; Col. 4:9; Prov. 12:22).
Sometimes a story that fits our political, social or religious world view appears that verifies our beliefs. It’s too good not to share. We like its message. But many times we’re duped. It turns out to be fake. Or an urban legend. In our zeal to promote our point of view, let’s be prudent about the stories we post.
Secondly, we all need to be on guard against religious “fake news.” The Word of God is called the Gospel, which literally means “Good News.” However, there’s a lot that passes for the Good News which is really fake news.
Babylon Bee is a religious web site called “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire.” I’ve seen people post stories from it about politicians, entertainers or religious leaders thinking they were true. But they’re not! This morning the Bee’s headlines reads “Gaping Maw in Earth Swallows Westboro Baptist Church Whole.” Not true. While some of their stories contain a biting sarcasm that makes a point, remember they are all fictional.
Also there are a number of phrases people mistakenly think are in the Bible. For instance.
“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
“God moves in mysterious ways.”
“God don’t like ugly.”
“God helps those who help themselves.”
None of those are found in the Good News. Also the often heard expression “The Sinners Prayer” is nowhere to be found in the Bible.
I’m reminded of a time several years during a wedding rehearsal when a lady approached me to inquire “Where in the Bible is the wedding ceremony?” Sorry, Mam, it’s not there.
At this time of year we often hear about “the three wise men.” Actually the Bible doesn’t specifically say how many men came bearing gift to Jesus. It does mention three types of gifts–gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt 2:11).
More seriously, we need to be alert to doctrinal errors that are often presented as Biblical fact. There are too many to mention. But Bible writers warn us about the reality.
Peter writes that “there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you…” (2 Pet. 2:1)
John admonished, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn 2:1).
And Paul warned in very serious terms “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).
Fake news. It’s a fact. But it’s not new. So be aware. Alert. And discerning in your dissemination of information.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman