The Disinformation Age
“16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV
“The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true.”
Dear Church Family,
Do you know what a “meme” is. For now, let’s just say a meme is a picture combined with a quote that reflects some popular element of culture. These are often passed along on through social media. In fact, there are memes on the internet mocking the definition of “meme.” One example is the fake quotation of Abraham Lincoln above.
Some people have suggested that we live in the “information age.” I call it the “disinformation age.” I recently opened up my computer to a headline about a political candidate being accused of lying. The candidate, a white man, had served in Iraq, and had posted a picture of himself with a few black soldiers. Immediately, some of his political rivals accused him of “photoshopping” himself into a picture to gain some level of credibility with the black community.
He was, in fact, seeking credibility with that community. It was part of his campaign, and he was honest about his point. The irony of the accusation is that the accusers were the ones being dishonest. Photo experts could find no evidence that the picture was fake. Unfortunately, other opponents, eager to believe the worst, passed the accusation along through the media.
We certainly have to guard against all forms of deceit. We’ve all gotten scam calls pretending to represent our bank or whatever. Satan, Jesus reminds us, is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). But there are a couple of other things we need to be on our guard against. First, we need to be on our guard against being the source of falsehoods, against “bearing false witness.” This goes both for outright lying and for passing along falsehoods that start with others.
That last part—passing along things we hear—raises one more concern. I’m talking about our eagerness to believe the worst about people, especially those with whom we might have some disagreement. Whether it is outright lies, or passing along some juicy gossip, these behaviors betray our desire to believe the worst about people. When we have an opponent, political or otherwise, there is a temptation to “demonizing” them—to believe they are not only opponents, but are morally repugnant in other ways. Whether it’s within the body of Christ, or in the broader community, spreading lies “sows discord among brothers.” This, we are told in Proverbs, is something that the Lord hates. The sown discord, however, would not bear fruit if there weren’t people eager to believe the lies.