Read No Evil: A Christian Response to The ‘Fake News’ Era
There it was again: Choose what to believe. He wanted truth. Why was everybody so determined that he not get it?Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Avoiding the Alternative
This isn’t really about Donald Trump. It’s not really about CNN. Hot takes and even well written pieces on their war are everywhere and so I’d rather spare you more of that.
This is really more about how I, as a Christian, deal with the current bipartisan climate of how we get our news. I’m not taking sides in this public war between our president and many media outlets. I disagree with our president on many things but I cannot deny that the media – major news networks, not just trolls on Twitter – has continuously lied about him, misrepresented him and ran with false stories since before Day 1 of his presidency.
To be fair, the same thing happened when Obama was president. The only difference to me is that most of the historically popular news has been historically left leaning. The rise of social media has brought some balance, but until I got on Twitter last year there were only a small handful of places I could regularly see the brazen mistreatment of our former president. I see it regularly now.
The Un-silent Majority
So if I cannot trust a lot of media, and I want to be informed (as I should as a citizen) and a pursuer of truth (as I should as a Christian), what do I do? Well, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. I have finally decided, as risky as it may be, to write about it. Let me be absolutely clear that what I am about to share are things that I am practicing in my own life, as a follower of the Christian God. I do not believe they are absolute truths for all Christians everywhere. I’m sharing because I think it helps to talk through these things. I’m willing to learn from others as well.
1. I’m Ignoring the Extremes
I do not believe our president is either always right or always wrong. I think he is far more often wrong (at the very least I appreciate his VP and Supreme Court picks and support for life in the womb), not just in policy but in presentation (especially on Twitter, holy moly). I know and love people who disagree with me and see him more often right. However, I cannot get behind either extreme because the vast majority of the time extremes do not contain the truth. I’m not convinced either extreme view of our president is an exception.
So people like Tomi Lahren and websites like Mother Jones are basically irrelevant to me. I have no doubt at times they report things that are true. But they are so deep within one extreme side of the war, basically all of what they pontificate about is utterly slanted and lacking any semblance of balance. I can find the more nuanced truth from people who are willing to say, “On this, Trump is right. On this, he is wrong.” And who did the same for Obama, rare as they were. I remember when my brother, who was no fan of Obama, lauded him on Facebook for his work on the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden. I feel I can trust him more because of that. A huge fan of moderate John Adams, he challenges biases and sees things issue by issue. May we all.
2. I’m learning to hate hypocrisy in others and myself.
I feel pretty confident that some people who have ripped Trump for his behavior toward women weren’t quite as loud when Bill Clinton was president. Conversely, I have little doubt some people have minimized Trump’s private life who blasted Bill Clinton as a moral embarrassment. I have no doubt that when Trump does something that Obama did that Obama haters criticized, Obama lovers jump on the hypocrisy. And that when Trump haters criticize Trump for doing something Obama did, Trump lovers cry hypocrisy.
Essentially nothing, including the 39 years of church life I’ve experienced, brings out our willingness to double standard things as American politics. And I’m not just complaining or condemning. I’m saying this because at times I’m guilty of this in politics and out, and seeing how abhorrent it is in other people helps me want to avoid it. To repent of it.
3. I’m OK with Not Having a Passionate Opinion on Everything
With media so willing to be dishonest as it is, I confess there are times on issues I struggle with knowing the truth. And even when I mine through all extreme bias in media and get the facts, there are still times the facts are in such conflict that they make it difficult to have a hardline opinion. So, sometimes I don’t have a solid opinion.
And I’m OK with that. Please know that I”m not saying that we should be on the fence very often. I have strong opinions about abortion and immigration and several other topics that matter to me. Because I know enough to know what I believe. But there are many times I am much more torn. On the issue of healthcare, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the data given by both sides for and against recent legislation: millions have been helped and millions have ripped it apart. I see both sides. The ACA has affected me but not as positively or as negatively as many others. So it’s hard for me to take a hard line on it, as I see merits and flaws.
In the book Blink, Malcom Gladwell makes the point that we need to be comfortable saying, “I don’t know”. I think this is true in politics. I personally can’t be dialed up to Level 11 for passion or outrage about everything. Because then there is no room for true passion or outrage.
4. I’m more motivated than ever to live out what I believe
I am not ready yet to abandon social media. I think it does more good for me than evil. Yet, I can probably speak for many when I see it makes me feel so helpless. It makes me sad for this world. And while not the best motivation, what does happen is that it motivates me to live out what I believe much more purposefully. I can’t change people’s minds on political issues. I can’t stop the simplistic memes, 140-characters fallacious arguments or lying by politicians and media. What I can do is preach and live Truth to my wife, my neighbors, my church and anyone else God puts in my path. In today’s era of fake news, and online debating due to fake news, nothing is more cathartic.
Again, it’s not my aim to preach about this. These are my convictions and they are up for discussion for other people. I just know there seems to be a fairly big remnant of people who feel like I do who do not want to be drowned out by the “Trump is Hitler” and Trump sycophant armies.
The pursuit of truth has never been for the lazy. It takes work. Sadly in the U.S. this is true with filtering our news sources. But it must be done. Humbly and honestly, it must be done. The lead quote to this article is in the context of Harry refusing to take for granted what he knew about Dumbledore. It wasn’t enough to trust neither the media nor what he assumed was true. I want to have that attitude.
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5 thoughts on “Read No Evil: A Christian Response to The ‘Fake News’ Era”
Timely and necessary article. Thanks for writing this Gowdy.
Thanks. I hope it generates some positive results.
Well written, thought provoking, and timely, Gowdy. I wish a lot of folks in media (and in the church) could and would read this. Thank you.
Any pushback from any of our readers? I would love for this to be a place where people could safely engage with others that don’t necessarily see eye to eye on politics. Or anything, for that matter.