There is an interesting series being shown on a local news program regarding the subject of fake news. According to an informal test that the station conducted, even those mature enough to normally distinguish fake new from fact-based information were fooled 25% of the time. Twenty-five percent of misinformation is a lot of misinformation!
Social media and advertisement sources can be the culprit when it comes to reputable information. Whatever brings in the money seems to be the order of the day for many companies. The crazier and more outrageous the story, the more likely it will attract advertizing dollars.
So why do some people buy into fake new stories? The answer, according to the late Roger Ailes, is that people want another source to do the thinking for them. As an aide to President Nixon in 1970, Ailes prepared a 300-page memo which stated in part the following:
Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit — watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.
Despite the various opinions on Mr. Ailes, he was spot-on with his observation about some people.
Fake news, unfortunately, has also impacted the religious community. Some people go to church with no intention of studying the Bible or any other associated religious material. Some folks just show up to church and believe whatever is told to them by the pastor of whatever church. Denominational affiliation is not important. Pastoral background information is not important. Accountability is not important. Educational standards are not important.
The other day, while attending a clergy gathering of various denominations, I overheard one pastor tell another that the “Word of God is really very simple.” He continued, “We make it complicated, but it’s really very simple to understand.” I refrained from commenting on such a generalized statement. If the Bible were so simple, why do we have hundreds of various denominations? Why have various Christian groups fought each other over the centuries? Why have some people committed horrific crimes and abused each other in the name of Christ? Not so simple, after all, is it?
It takes a lifetime of study and dedication to understand the Word of God and the lessons associated with the Bible. It is not a book or a faith to be taken lightly. It is a living document that changes, as we change, with time.
How to avoid fake news items within the faith? As with any subject matter of importance, I think it is essential that people take a scholarly approach in researching their information, be it with the Bible or other religious material. What is a scholarly approach? According to various educational sources, scholarly information should be considered in the following ways:
- The authors are scholars, researchers, and trusted writers with known affiliations and credentials
- The authors cite other sources, which include citations to other reputable sources
- The publisher is a scholarly press that practices editorial review to ensure that content and context adhere to the research parameters.
Read trusted material by reputable sources … just don’t get caught up in the moment or with the fad of the day. And, don’t allow “flash and bang” to get the most attention.
While most of us cannot possibly eliminate all the fake news sources of the day, most of us can exercise caution and skepticism when we read such titles as:
- The World is coming to an End … thanks to the Russians
- The President is the Anti-Christ
- The Book of Revelations Reveals that a Huge Meteor will smash the Earth.
If in doubt, don’t pass it out. Be it with national news or religious matters, receive and share your information with care. God is counting us to exercise truthfulness within our faith, not sloppiness.