As I write today, we are in the middle of the Covid-19 shutdowns and conspiracy theories abound. I see at least two or more a day, and they range from the possibly credible to ridiculous.
Is this virus created to be a bioweapon? Is it a way to do covert population control in an effort to curb climate change? Is President Trump trying to break up child sex-trafficking rings? Is Bill Gates trying to secretly chip everyone with the Mark of the Beast through a forced vaccine? Is this a secret government ploy to take away all rights or to abolish the second amendment? Are dolphins back in the canals in Venice?
Depending on who you are, some of these seem more believable that others. I’ll admit that I fell for the dolphin one until reading more into it.
Seeing these spread like wildfire troubles me.
But what troubles me more is who I often see sharing them:
Santa Claus and Christ
(I bet you didn’t think Santa would find his way into this post, did you?)
I once heard a pastor around Christmas time say in a sermon, “We need to be careful what we tell our kids to believe about Santa because when we tell them about Jesus, we want them to believe us.”
This stuck out to me and I remembered it when we had our own children. Now, don’t freak out at me. We don’t think Santa is satanic, and love a jolly rendition of “Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer.” I don’t get angry when people greet me with “Happy Holidays” and we have a Christmas tree. *gasp* (This is also where I confess that I was an elf for Santa in the mall of our town for 3 years in a row.)
But we won’t have a huge, childhood shattering moment where our kids realize Santa isn’t real because we’ve never pretended that he was.
The purpose of this post is not to bash on Santa by any means or call him a malicious conspiracy theory. Please don’t close the tab thinking I’m on a vendetta against all things Christmas.
My point with this example is that sharing true information with others gives them more reasons to trust us with other important things.
An important thing like Jesus and what he did for us.
Unlike Santa, there are real, historical reasons to believe that Jesus existed and that the Bible we have today holds the eyewitness accounts of what he said and did. (More on that here: History and the New Testament)
As a witness to my children, I want them to feel like they can trust information I share with them. I want to share true information with them about everyday things so that they have good reasons to trust that I’ve shared true information about the most important things, like Jesus, God and the Bible. I also want to equip them with the tools to check that information for themselves and think critically.
Why It Matters
What does all that have to do with conspiracy theories?
Obviously, being truthful is an important character quality for every person, but I believe it is essential for Christians to be known for truthfulness and rational thinking.
This includes what kind of information we share with the world through our social media platforms and in person.
The Resurrection and Evangelism
Christianity if based on a big claim: The Resurrection of Jesus. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14, if the resurrection didn’t happen, the Christian faith is in vain. If it did, it changes everything. (Read more about this here: The Why)
The good news is that we have very good historical evidence to believe the resurrection really did happen. It’s not a baseless conspiracy theory, but an event rooted in reliable evidence. I know this because I’ve done the work to find out, and I’d strongly encourage you to do the same! (Check out this video for specifics on this)
A problem arises when we try to share about our faith and the actual reasons for the resurrection with non-believers after sharing baseless, hyperbolic claims about other things.
Why should they believe we are a trusted source of information and that we do our best to properly vet information about something as important as religion if we don’t do that with our everyday lives?
We have a duty to share reliable information so that people believe us when we try to tell them about Jesus.
Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness
Sharing false information is akin to lying. Even aside from the 9th commandment telling us not to lie, the Bible has a lot to say about the righteousness of speaking the truth and the sinfulness of lies.
“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”
“The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.”
– Proverbs 13:5
“When he (the devil) lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
– Ephesians 4:29
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
– Ephesians 4:15
“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies”
– Psalm 34:13
I’m not assuming that every person sharing a conspiracy theory on their social media page is intentionally spreading misinformation, but we are still accountable for sins, like lying, even if we do not know we commit them:
“If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible.”
– Leviticus 5:17
Even if you unknowingly lie, it’s still wrong. And we still need to repent.
We serve the God of Truth, and as people who bear His name, we need to make every effort to be known for our truthfulness.
We serve the God of Truth, and as people who bear His name, we need to make every effort to be known for our truthfulness.Tweet
I know that when you share this blog post on your social media you are each going to have at least one person in mind that you hope reads it. I know that when writing it, I have people who keep popping into my brain.
What I really need to be thinking about is how I can improve in this myself instead of focusing on how others can improve. I need to make sure I don’t have log in front of my own eye before focusing on the speck in another’s.
How can I be better known for sharing truthful information?
Change Your Mind
When I research something I already have a strong opinion about, and I find good information that goes against that belief, do I ignore it or do I change my opinion? I need to have the humility to know that I don’t know everything and be able to change my mind as I learn new information. Otherwise, I’m only going to accept information that already confirms my own belief.
As Aaron Brake from Stand to Reason said, “If you can’t prove something wrong, how do you prove them right?” (Source) In other words, if I never truly evaluate any information that comes against a pre-conceived view, how can I actually know that my view is true?
Second, I need to repent of any conspiracy theories I have shared in the past. I need to acknowledge when I shared something because it fit what I wanted to believe and not because the verified facts actually pointed toward that. If I shared something publicly that I now know is false, I also need to publicly retract it.
In my town, a local politician recently supported a movement that quickly turned out to be poor decision. Instead of digging in, he wrote a public letter saying he was wrong and had changed his position.
While I’m not going to get into this person’s politics, I will say that this public display of humility gave me a lot of respect for him. I trust him more to be able to admit mistakes and change his mind with new information. It’s difficult to say we’re wrong, but doing so can help others to listen to us more in the future.
Do Our Best
After recognizing past mistakes, I need to make my best effort to be sure I’m sharing truthful information.
- I need to read articles before I share them.
- I need to verify sources.
- I need to ask if the number of people who would need to be involved to perpetuate a conspiracy is realistic.
- I need to read articles from the other side to see if I’m missing some information, and I need to verify these articles as well.
- I need to check myself to see if I agree because an article agrees with how I already perceive something or because the evidence shows it to be true.
- I need to be okay with not sharing something if I can’t verify it.
It’s okay to not be perfect, but be sure to own up to if and when something gets past you. It’s a lot more work to put in before sharing something, but it’s worth it. Our witness as Christians is worth it.
It’s incredibly depressing to me that many of the conspiracy theories I see are shared on a Christian group on social media. We need to help build each other up to maturity in Christ, and this also means gently pointing fellow believers toward the truth.
If you have a relationship with someone, it is a lot easier to have a productive, prayerful conversation. Simply engaging them in discussion about the topic and asking questions about it can be a good way to encourage critical thinking without directly confronting them.
This can also be really frustrating for some, both in the asking and receiving, so we need to be careful to speak with an overabundance of kindness and grace in the middle of these conversations. Tread carefully here and always prayerfully consider each person and if you should respond or not. This is and area I am growing in, and it is good to remind myself that it is not always helpful or necessary to point out every disagreement.
Sharing this post can be a great way to peacefully encourage others to reconsider what they’re sharing. (hint hint!)
It is our job as Christians to speak the truth in love. We have a great responsibility in this area not only because God has been so clear in His Word about His love of truth, but because it affects our witness to others.
When we tell our neighbor about God’s love, we want them to believe us.
When we tell our family member about a miracle we witnessed, we don’t want them to be thinking about an internet lie we were tricked into believing.
When we tell our friend about how Jesus rose from the dead, we don’t want our conspiracy filled social media page to be the first thing on their minds
We want each of them to know that we are careful, critical thinkers who value truth even it forces us to change our minds.
We want to share truth and be known for it!
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