Alternative truth. Fake news. Fact check. The political arena has added some new terms to our vocabulary over the last couple of years.
As I peruse the social media news feeds of fellow Christians, I see a lot of unchecked facts. We too quickly hit the share button on “news” of people, businesses, and organizations accused of offending our Christian sensitivities. Upon further review, many of those stories are not true.
Starbucks is one of the most common targets of fake news. They have been accused of refusing coffee to Marines and telling Christians they don’t want their money. Liberal politicians find themselves the subject of some pretty wild conspiracy theories. Many posts tout news that means the “end” for someone. Other posts purport to expose some nasty things found in the food at popular restaurants.
If only we shared the good news about Jesus as faithfully as we share the fake news about these non-stories.
Reasons we need to fact-check before we post
Many write off this reckless posting as insignificant and innocent. “I thought it was true.” “It appeared to come from a reputable source.” “Well, it could be true.”
Is our posting of fake news really innocent? Does it matter? Should we care?
No. It is not innocent.
We should care. Deeply.
Let me share at least four reasons why.
The “Golden Rule”
I speak from the experience of being misquoted, misrepresented, and mistaken for someone else. You cannot completely undo accusations made against you.
None of us like to be the subject of lies and innuendo. We want people to get their facts right about us. Conversely, we should endeavor to get our facts right about others. Jesus told us to treat others the same way we want them to treat us (Matthew 7:12).
The Ninth Commandment
The ninth commandment (Exodus 20:16) forbids us from presenting a “false testimony” against our “neighbor.” Jesus expanded the application of neighbor from one who lives in close proximity to anyone we might engage.
Some would claim innocence because they didn’t know the news was fake. Try that next time you are pulled over for speeding. “But, officer, I didn’t know the speed limit was not 120 m.p.h.” Our lack of knowledge of something’s truthfulness does not change the reality of its truthfulness. In fact, it’s worse that we would share something as true if we are not certain of its truthfulness.
The Accountability Factor
Courts place a high premium on truth. Once of the gravest offenses is perjury – presenting testimony that isn’t true. Witnesses swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Sadly, we only take that seriously when under oath.
Jesus warns us that on Judgment Day, we will give an account for every “careless” word we speak (Matthew 12:36). I think it is not an interpretative stretch to include written communication in that accountability. Even if no one ever holds us accountable for our posts here on earth, Jesus will on Judgment Day.
In this information age, we have many tools at our disposal to help us check the truthfulness of things. You can Google the information, or try sites like Truth or Fiction or Snopes to help you fact check.
The Gospel Imperative
The most important and compelling reason to fact check our posts is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have the most important real news to share. If we have a reputation for sharing fake news, why should anyone believe us when we share the Good News?
We are our culture’s salt and light. Without our credible sharing of the Gospel there is not hope.
Let’s be careful with our posts. Our credibility is at stake. The reputation of Christ is on the line.
This post originally appeared at JimDuggan.org.