According to a highly reliable and recent survey, three-fourths of Americans believe news headlines even when they are fake. The survey* revealed the following:
- Of those who saw a fake news headline, 75 percent said they thought those headlines were “somewhat” accurate or “very” accurate.
- Of those who saw a real news headline, 83 percent said they were “somewhat” accurate or “very” accurate.
To God and to His children, truth matters. Why is it important? First, in truth we find safety. When we don’t discriminate between truth and fake, we are vulnerable to being deceived. In addition, having integrity is vitally important–especially as followers of Jesus. Christians should have a reputation for holding the standard where truth is concerned. We should be the most truthful people on earth… but we aren’t. Shouldn’t this change? I have a dream that the body of Christ can become a strong and powerful force of love and life and light in this world.
With deception and lies being the “new normal” in our culture, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be salt and light. Light reveals what is really there… truth. Salt preserves what is worth saving… truth. In John 14:6 Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If Jesus is “the truth”, then as His followers, we should reflect truth.
The Rise of Fake News
Fake News has become a hot topic lately. I’m not talking about satire sites. No, I’m talking about false stories passing themselves off as true.
Sometimes false stories are passed along by sincere people who don’t know they’re relaying questionable information. At other times it’s from intentionally fake sites with a large divisive agenda. The people behind them want to disrupt and undermine those they disagree with, so they post fake stories to bait people into passing it along. Satan is the author of this at the root. And Satan loves that so many fall into his trap.
The Christian world is one of their primary targets. And amazingly, Christians keep taking the bait. Not always. But way too many times. It not helpful–in fact it does damage. And it’s not right.
Truth Is Our Currency
Believers should be the last people on earth who traffic in fake news. Even if it’s unintentional. It’s no excuse to reveal after the fact that we didn’t know it was fake news. I’m speaking to pastors as well as all believers.
We can and should be meticulous about our fact-checking. In our sermons as well as our conversations. The same is true for online and in person communication. The integrity of the church depends on it. The reputation of our Lord is affected.
I like to have fun as much as the next guy, but this subject about fake news in our American culture is not a game we’re playing. When the integrity of the body of Christ gets undermined then the reliability of the gospel message gets called into question… sometimes with devastating consequences. The deity of Jesus Christ is challenged. Eternal lives at stake.
Telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, should always be a higher priority than winning an argument. Here are some quick steps you can take to avoid passing along fake news.
If you see a story that gets your blood pumping, but you’re not sure if it’s true, try Crosschecking with 4 easy steps before posting or sharing it:
- Determine for YOURSELF if it’s true.
It’s not hard to do these days. You can probably do it on the device you’re reading this on right now. Here’s a clue: if the story is found only on 1-source, it’s almost certainly not true. Identify the source as good and reliable or untrustworthy and unreliable. If it’s unreliable part of the time, it’s not to be trusted without confirmation from a second reliable source. (James 3:11 “Can both fresh water and bitter water flow from the same spring?”)
- Not True – Don’t Share
Obviously if it’s not reliable, not true then don’t share it. (Ephesians 5:6 “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”)
- Unable to Verify – Don’t Share
Sometimes we don’t have time to verify a story. If so, don’t forward the story with your disclaimer, “hey I don’t know if this is true…but…”. Again, Satan loves this just as much. If you can’t verify it to be true, then don’t post or forward. (Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call eavil good, and good evil.”)
- True? Helpful? Ok, Share it.
Determine that the story is helpful. That can be as important as making sure it’s verified to be truthful. Post news items that you know are true and helpful. (Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”)
Truth is Hard to Find if you refer to mainstream
These days, the large in-the-mainstream stories are not likely to be true as in years past. We are praying this will change, of course. And it may. In the meantime, beware. Just know that really true stories tend to get buried by distracting news and smoke screens. Again, Satan is the author of this. The love of money is also at the core of this human behavior which tends to hide real truth.
Yes, I’m aware that irregular and secondary news also often has an agenda. There is truth and stories that have gone under-covered because of that. That’s another reason why it’s important to get our news from multiple reliable sources, not just those that lean our way politically or ideologically. Sadly, just because the source is labeled “Christian” does not guarantee its validity. Use caution. Due your own due diligence.
In war strategy, commanders and military leaders know that deception is a vital tool. And the best way to deceive your enemy is to spin a lie that is in line with what they want or already believe. Similarly, just because a story supports your worldview doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact, that is often a trick of the enemy. So be careful. Be especially skeptical of any story that fits your argument too perfectly.
Why This Matters to Believers?
Christians aren’t the only ones that swallow the bait and get suckered into promoting fake news. Everyone is susceptible.
So why do I make this newsletter for Christians? Because what the ‘world’ does is not my business. What the Church does is the business of my Father, therefore, it is my business also. What we do as the Church of our Lord is vital. Passing along fake news undermines and belittles the very important cause both of you and I are trying to promote.
We’re talking about the cause of the gospel of Jesus, where people’s souls are in the balance.
Truth Must Be Our Highest Priority
Regardless of how big a story is… if it’s not true–or even if it might not be true–as Christians let’s stay far away from it. Let’s not respond with excuses like, “who knows what’s true anymore?”
We are followers of the One who told us “the truth will make you free”.
As disciples of the Lord Jesus, truth is our currency. Without it, we have little left. Truth is our guide. Truth is the rock. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” John 17:17 NKJV
As followers of Jesus, truth really is our currency. Without it, we have nothing.
It is essential to the integrity and believability of the gospel that we are known as truth-tellers, not argument-winners. Christians need to again have a reputation for being the most truthful people on earth.
The Value of Saying Nothing
Again, if you’re not sure, don’t pass it on. You’ll never regret the fake news item you did not pass along.
Here’s what you can do. The next time you’re tempted to post or say something which you haven’t personally confirmed, remember this. It’s okay to say nothing. It’s okay to lose an argument if it means keeping your reputation for truthfulness and for integrity. Winning arguments doesn’t set anyone free. Only the truth does that.
Let us know how you’re doing. You can do it. With God nothing is impossible!
Always your brother and sister,
Dale and Paula
What Others Are Saying:
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*Source: Ipsos/BuzzFeed poll. Dec. 7, 2016