The things we are sharing on Facebook are negatively affecting how people see Christians. They are damaging our credibility and creating a stumbling block to those who would hear the Gospel from us.
Please don’t take this as the ramblings of someone who doesn’t understand the culture of sharing that permeates the internet: I am by no means a Facebook noob. I’ve had my profile active since the “college only” days of 2005 – as a freshman at MU in ’06, I remember asking people if they had “a facebook” and having to clarify that I didn’t mean the school’s facebook (online directory). The point is, in these last 7 years I’ve started to notice something annoying and worrisome about my online hangout spot: most of the times when I find a hoax being shared online, there is a strong possibility that it came from one of my evangelical Christian friends.
If you and I have been connected online for very long, you know that this is a “hot topic” for me. I’m usually the first one who will double check a story and post a link confirming or refuting its truthfulness (snopes.com and other sites like it are wonderful sources for such activity). More often than not, this usually gets an angry response from someone who doesn’t like that I pointed out that their emotionally charged story was a lie. I get told often that I need to “just let it go”. I’m sorry but I can’t do that. This is too important of an issue to just let die.
I’ve wrote about why having credible sources is important in the past but today I am touching on it again from a theological standpoint. As always, I encourage you to share this with others and comment your thoughts below.
Here are a few reasons why Christians need to stop sharing partially true or completely false stories online.
1. They’re credibility killers
The Gospel is hard to fully understand. It requires us to let go of our need to know everything and have faith in God’s providence and not our own abilities. Face it: believing that a good man actually turned out to be the Son of God, died like a common criminal, then came back to life 3 days later, all to save us from our sins is not an easy pill to swallow. But that is the good news – it’s what we are commanded to share with the world. If we’re going to communicate the message of truth, what do you think it does for our credibility every time a Christian shares something that can easily be disproven with 5 minutes on Google?
“but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” – 1 Corinthians 1:23
Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians that the Gospel is folly to those who hear it – Grace just doesn’t make sense. If human nature is already such a large stumbling block, we can’t afford to let our gullibility be another obstacle between people and Christ.
2. They spread fear
The message of the Gospel isn’t that we should be fearful of everything and everyone—but you wouldn’t know that from what is shared by Christians on Facebook.
Every week there seems to be a new influx of scary stories to get upset about. To me, it seems like some evangelicals are so obsessed with end-times scenarios that they’re actively looking for stories to support their paranoia (which isn’t a new occurrence – Christians have been trying to figure out when the events of Christ’s Second Coming will take place since He first ascended into heaven).
The Good News of Christ isn’t, “Hey, look how bad things are!” but rather “take heart, I have overcome the world!” Why try to spread the former when the later is so much better?
3. They emphasize emotion over accuracy
Recently the story of Pastor Jeremiah Steepek was making the rounds online. In the story that was shared countless times, a new pastor pretends to be homeless when he visits his new church and uses the experience as a lesson to the congregation. It is a cool story that makes you think about how we all tend to judge others by the outside appearance. The problem is, no one can find any proof of this pastor, and even the picture that accompanies the story and is the headline for this post is a fake. It is simply a story that preys on the readers emotions.
We cannot afford to pass off questionable stories as true just because we appreciate the message.
Some claim that stories like these are just modern day parables. I get that Jesus used parables to teach lessons but the difference between what our Lord did and what so many of us are doing is that Jesus didn’t try to pass his stories off as true when they weren’t. It was clear it was a teaching tool and not a true life account.
We should always remember that Truth is a priceless commodity. When we cheapen it with a quick click of the “share” button without vetting it’s truthfulness first, those who encounter it become much more unwilling to believe what we have to say in the future.