How often do we see our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ on social media sharing shocking news articles with captions along the lines of “something to think about … ” or “not sure what to believe in anymore”? Topics can vary, but the one thing in common is the bizarre and alarming headlines used to lure readers into clicking on the links.
When questioned about our ability to consume media critically, how confident are we that we will not contribute in spreading misinformation? Especially as Christians, how do we learn to appropriately engage with media in line with Scripture?
Oftentimes, people who grow up in religious households are told that media is evil. Parents do everything in their power to shelter their kids from using technology until they reach a certain age. However, by choosing to avoid it, we could potentially lose the opportunity to learn how to glorify God through the media we use.
Although content that is not edifying to our minds—much less to our spirituality—is present in the media, God did not call us to live shielded from the world. In order to “prove all things” and “to hold fast that which is good,” as the Apostle Paul urges us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, we must be able to discern and respond to the ever-changing culture that ebbs through media. This ability is known as media literacy, and Christians are called to practice it.
As misleading content keeps seeping through the cracks of social media, we are frequently consuming lies without even noticing. The amount of academic certificates we have hanging on our walls and the surplus of books sitting on our shelves are irrelevant. We all inevitably fall victim to fake news, abundant in this current era of technology, where information travels to all corners of the world with a single click.
According to a 2019 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, about 60% of U.S. adults who receive news through social media said they had shared false information. The study also found that an increasing number of Americans express concern for made-up news (50%), surpassing other issues like racism (40%) and climate change (46%). As lies dominate over facts on social media, we have a responsibility to speak truth. We are not called to a life full of deception, but being able to tell the truth apart from the lies is not an ability that we can master by ourselves. As John 16:13 states, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” If we let the Holy Spirit guide us, we will encounter truth and reject deceit.
As we learn how to have a healthy relationship with media, we also must promote the habit of verifying the information we find online. Scripture confirms this responsibility: “Having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).
Even if we see that truth is increasingly harder to find online, The Threefold Advocate challenges the JBU community to prove all things and to hold fast that which is good. Let’s use media as a way to promote the ultimate truth that is Jesus Christ (John 4:16), and to speak the truth to one another (Zechariah 8:16a).