True or false? There was once a time where you could fully trust that the news on TV, radio, and in print was all completely true. False! But with the recent overuse of the term “fake news,” one could easily get the impression that this is a totally new phenomenon. News networks, social media sites, and other news outlets are clamoring to demonstrate that they are the sole purveyors of the truth, and their competitors are false. So how do Christians and their children sort out what is true and what are lies?
The first truth to embrace is that fake news has been around for a long, long time. Does anyone remember the era of “yellow journalism” in the late 1800’s, when sensational headlines were made up just to sell newspapers? And I’m guessing that nations down though the ages didn’t always give their citizens the most accurate news of the day. Whether driven by a certain agenda or ideology, or just due to human error, we have all been treated to fake news for all of our lives. But we need to look all the way to the beginning of human history to learn the true origin of fake news:
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)
Doesn’t Satan, the Father of Fake News, sound just like a journalist as he interviewed Eve? “Did God actually say…?” Then, after the first woman gave her version of what God “actually” said, Satan came right back with the first sound bite of fake news: “You will not surely die…you will be like God…” As the great Deceiver, he claims to be giving Eve “the real story” behind God’s headlines, calling into question who really has the true truth. And then we all know the rest of the rest of the sad story, as our first parents sinned, ushering sin and death into the world. If only they believed the truth and could recognize fake news!
How, then, does this history reminder help us teach our children how to face the falsehood of fake news? Consider these regular talking points as you talk them about the daily news:
- Read the Bible much more than you watch/read the news. If Adam and Eve would have heard Satan’s lies, then went back to listen to God’s commands again, they may have been reoriented to the truth. Our tendency to be deceived by fake news is correlated to our lack of knowledge of truth of God’s Word and the belief of sound doctrine.
- Rely on the Spirit of Truth. Thankfully, the Father of Lies is not the only voice putting out news today. Christians are led by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us to guide us into all truth. When we walk by the Spirit, we seek the truth and reject all lies.
- Remember that people are sinners. Some journalists and reporters do a good job of presenting the truth, yet can make mistakes from time to time. Others are more purposeful in their desire to deceive, led by the Father of Fake News. No one is perfectly objective or are perfect transmitters of the truth. To put our ultimate trust in human beings will only lead us into error.
- React slowly to news. We are more likely to fall for fake news when we react quickly to it. We are much better served to stop, listen, do some good research, pray, and wait for more information. In James 1, we are told to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. That’s great wisdom in many places of life, including the reading of the news.
- Renew your mind. The Spirit of God has been given to us to change the way we think! Recognize that the battle is always for the mind, forcing us to constantly feed on the truth for our very lives. True discernment is a fruit of the Spirit’s work, and is cultivated as we wisely observe all that is going on in this world.
The ultimate answer to the problem of fake news is a full and daily embrace of the Good News! Satan’s original lie was motivated by the desire to lead as many people to hell as possible. This lie behind all lies seeks to do the same to people today–to lead them to fully and finally reject Jesus Christ. Instead of being swayed by the fake news of our day, let us be diligent to constantly share the truth, the good news of the gospel, to our children and in our communities each and every day!