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I came across this quote today, and I think it nicely sums up the current state of many evangelical churches (our own International Church of Christ very much included):
As I’ve written before, there’s been no shortage of calls for prayer and financial assistance during this difficult time. This is great, and always encouraging.
Unfortunately, when it comes to calling out and addressing the continued spread of dangerous online misinformation (in this case, content that can directly affect the health of others) the church has continually shown absolute cowardice.
They’re so afraid of taking what might be perceived as a political stance that they stick their heads in the sand as this content gets posted, or vaguely dance around the issue by encouraging members to consider that there are opinions on “both sides” (of a pandemic!).
Nobody (myself included) wants the church to be political, but not addressing the spread of blatant disinformation head-on is incredibly damaging. This piece nails it:
The spread of misinformation is an issue we all need to confront — no matter our political persuasion or age demographic. If the online sphere is our new battleground then truthful information should be our weapon of choice.
Because conspiracy theories aren’t harmless.
To this day, conspiracy theorists still harass the families of the first-grade children who died in the Sandy Hook school shooting. In December 2017, a man opened fire in a D.C. pizzeria with an assault rifle because he was convinced it was filled with trafficked children as a result of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. In October 2018, a man mailed pipe bombs to people named in a prominent far-right conspiracy. And downplaying a virus by posting an easily debunked “Plandemic” conspiracy video puts real people at risk. And you’re spitting in the face of healthcare workers risking their lives and the lives of their families.
But, on a more mundane level, posting and endorsing conspiracy theories makes Christians look like idiots. And it reinforces the public perception that Christians will fall for anything and seriously put the object of our faith into question by outsiders who want nothing to do with our fear-and-hatred based worldview.
If you don’t have the time nor patience to fact-check an article or video, you have no business sharing it. Because you’re bearing false witness. You’re lying. Even if you think you’re making a difference, you’re deceiving other people. You’re harming your witness and the witness of your community.
As a church, you either confront the sin of misinformation or you don’t. Doing nothing means you’ve chosen a side (tacitly endorsing this garbage), and sends a clear signal about your priorities to current and prospective members. Worse still is the active removal of content merely asking for advice/guidance on the church’s misinformation problem (something the ICOC did on its Facebook page this week). This is straight-up shameful.
If (as I suspect) the fear is that having public conversations about misinformation will seem “divisive” and potentially drive members away, what has become of the church? Are we more concerned about membership numbers than truth? The ICOC has dealt with a sea change before. This current situation is far more insidious, and yet…crickets.
Personally, it’s been incredibly disheartening to watch, and as I’ve finally hit my breaking point with the usual small group small talk, I’ll be watching from the corner going forward, sincerely hoping for an injection of church courage. 🙏