Fake News

by Timothy Pauls 

Since the presidential election, rarely a day goes by where I don’t see a news story about “fake news.” It’s as if there’s a brand new phenomenon in which various individuals are publishing stories that are not true. This has caused consternation to many who argue that lies can alter election results, affect national policy and even lead some to shoot up pizza parlors in Washington, D.C. (Finally, we have the answer: Guns don’t shoot pizza places, websites do.)

The outrageous outrage suffers a lack of focus, largely because there’s no consensus on what constitutes “fake news.” Satirical websites like the Onion or the Babylon Bee are exempt, because everybody knows they’re satirical, except for those who don’t. Other websites are obvious culprits, publishing articles full of lies designed to slander political opponents. Pope Francis has weighed in, condemning the spread of gossip and disinformation, and Mark Zuckerberg has promised to wage war against the blight on Facebook. As the outrage du jour, fake news must be banished.

In some ways, it’s difficult to me to take the controversy seriously, mostly because the folks who sound angriest are the same who usually “help” the Church celebrate Christmas by running cover stories like, “The Truth about Jesus that the Church Doesn’t Want You to Know,” then presenting a mind-numbing rehash about the Gnostic gospels that everyone has known to be fake for the past, oh, 2,000 years.

There’s another angle, however, that’s cause for concern: It’s the idea that something is fake news not because it’s false, but merely because I disagree with it. 

It’s hardly breaking news that our culture has rejected the idea of objective truth: Look no further than the popular assertion that a man with XY chromosomes and matching anatomy can say, “I’m a woman because I say so.” The statement doesn’t hold water if one believes in objective truth; the problem is that our society has sacrificed objective truth in favor of, “It’s true because I want it to be.”

What’s the opposite of, “It’s true because I want it to be”?

That would be, “It’s false because I don’t want it to be true.”

Who proclaims all sorts of truth that the world doesn’t want to hear? The Church. We speak the truth about Christ, the Truth. Thus we’re subjected to another front in culture’s war against Christianity: It is only a matter of time until Christians are accused of “fake news” for speaking the Good News. And fake news must be banished.

Speaking of God’s Word, a few verses seem to fit our present situation:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20)

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Rom. 1:24-25)

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

If you want your myth to be true, then the truth has to be false.

Goodness. Whatever are we to do?

Keep talking, of course. Look, given the passages above, all the accusations that God’s Word is false are only confirming that it’s true! The more that culture works to justify its rebellion against God, the more absurd and hopeless it will sound: and likewise, the more brightly the light of the Gospel will shine. As St. Paul writes, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar.” (Rom. 3:3-4)

Be at peace, friends. Christ the Truth has conquered the father of lies for you at the cross. Keep talking, for the Word of the Lord remains forever.

The Rev. Tim Pauls is pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Boise, Idaho.


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5 Responses to Fake News

  1. Jeffrey Weiblen January 12, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    Right on Bro! You mentioned Christmas but I always brace myself for Easter. “THIS SUNDAY AT 7:00. A two hour special on NBC. DID JESUS REALLY EXIST?” Because it’s just being “fair” for the Secular Left to attack the most holy Christian holiday! You are correct. The Holy Spirit just uses this dribble to draw people to Him.

  2. John J Flanagan January 12, 2017 at 8:54 pm #

    “Fake News” is just the latest hashtag or expression for an old problem. When I was a young boy in elementary school, I was an avid reader. My old man subscribed to four New York newspapers, and loved to talk about politics, religion, and life in general. He and I both read the news and talked about the articles. His advice to me: “Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.” He stressed the fact that many news stories were deliberately misleading, omitted facts, sensationalized stories, and it was my job to be a skeptic. He never bought the New York Times, and told me, “They are the worst.” My father talked about deductive and inductive reasoning long before I read about it in high school. I think today people rush to judgment too easily, helped along by the Internet and the media’s poorly written articles and allegations laced with innuendo and half truths. In matters of Biblical truth, don’t be duped into questioning your Christian faith and accepting the wisdom of this fallen world.

  3. Derek Klemm January 12, 2017 at 9:53 pm #

    Passing off information that is false or misleading, whether it supports what I like or what I don’t like, can’t help my position, at least logically, it can only undercut my argument. I’m grateful for synod college and seminary experiences at St. Paul and St. Louis encouraging students to think critically about issues. That process leads me to a very different take than the author’s on “fake news,” which is prevalent and is concerning to many people, myself included. I find the outrage, while perhaps overly dramatic and selective in focus, to be far from outrageous.

  4. SIDNEY LOGGINS January 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

    Thanks pastor – see you Sunday and I know the news you share will not be fake…

  5. Pastor David M. Burge January 25, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    While I appreciate the clarity with which Pastor Pauls addresses the spiritual matters involved in this issue, his pastoral reminder that “Christ the Truth has conquered the father of lies for you at the cross, and his encouragement to keep speaking the truth of God’s Word, I am afraid that I cannot view the matter of fake news and the deliberate repetition of falsehoods by those in authority with the same equanimity that he appears to take. Recent history reminds us of the destructiveness of the continuous repetition of falsehoods, whether it be done by media that have no concern for the truth or by people in position of authority who resort to the repetition of such falsehoods to maintain themselves in power and to push their policies, on both civil discourse, the ability of citizens to be able to fulfill their civic responsibilities, and on those in a community who are the target of such falsehoods. Recent history also warns us that when the Church fails to stand up against such constant repetition of falsehoods, no matter who is doing it, that it can find itself co-opted by those spreading such falsehoods and find its witness to the truth of the Gospel compromised. For the harm it can do to both the left- and right-hand Kingdoms, the spread of persistent falsehoods, whether through the media or by those in positions of authority, is a serious matter that must be dealt with by a strong and positive witness to objective truth and to the Eighth Commandment.

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