One phrase that has been popularized by President Donald Trump is “fake news.”
Fake news, of course, refers to stories generated by journalists and other individuals that are believed to be partly, or as a whole, made up. In this age of people looking to the Internet and social media for news, “fake news” is increasingly hard to combat.
Several countries, including Malaysia, are considering a crack-down on “fake news,” but this entire phenomenon is not exactly new. Sir Winston Churchill was reported to have once said, “Slander travels in six-league boots,” meaning that a lie can travel around the world before truth can catch up. That seems to be the case now, as much as at any time.
For example, in today’s political climate, we are seeing a trend away from “innocent until proven guilty” toward “innocent until accused.” We also are seeing a trend toward people immediately sharing news on social media, before verifying its truthfulness.
Above anyone else, Christians ought to be a people who seek truth and avoid lies. Certainly we at the Baptist Messenger strive to abide by this, always bringing nothing but real news, true news.
That being said, Christians must also be careful not to slouch toward a place in which we become default skeptics about everything we read or are taught. Furthermore, we need to be careful we don’t simply dismiss as “fake news” the things that come into our path with which we disagree or do not want to have to deal with. That sort of selective hearing does not build up the Body of Christ, let alone the Republic in which we live.
We are, in that sense, striving toward a golden mean in which we “test all things in light of Scripture and hold fast to what is true” (1 Thess. 5:21). The Bible also teaches us not to make conclusions based on one witness (2 Cor. 13:1).
Far too many people today read an explosive headline on Facebook, share it and like it. The next time this happens, do some more research on the subject before you react. Pray about what the Lord would have you say. In doing so, you not only will avoid inadvertently sharing or inflating “fake news,” you will set a good example for others.
Christians should be “quick to listen and slow to speak,” both in person and online. As our age continues to discern between real and fake news, we cannot have the true claims of Christianity and the voice of the church muted or muddied.
Ultimately, a culture in which everything is suspect as “fake news” will lead to skepticism and relativism. And that is a disastrous recipe for those of us trying to share the real Good News of Jesus Christ, to this and all generations.