by Elder Sim Chee Seng
” Jesus said …. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8:31-32)
Recently I received an unexpected Whatsapp message from a neighbor who informed me that my former medical professor has passed away. He suffered from a severe stroke for a long time. Quickly, I forwarded this bad news to a doctor friend for her attention. Unknown to me, she had forwarded to other colleagues. Days later, I received a call from her and she scolded me. She explained “I called the professor’s wife. She told me that she just had breakfast with him. His wife demanded an apology from me and ask me to squash this fake news or rumor immediately.” I was shock and speechless. I apologized and stated that I should have checked before passing on the fake news.
Now I realized how powerful the “share” button is on my smart phone? With a simple click of this mighty button, information is instantly transmitted everywhere. In our modern, technologically advanced world, with fast and instant connectivity, incessant onslaught of information, news and 24/7 non-stop, online entertainment on every conceivable media platforms – how does one decide what is fake news or truth?
It is also known as lies, falsehoods, deceit, slander, backbiting, guile, and other terms. There is a long list of dubious websites in Wikipedia – many of these mimicking authentic radio, TV or media agencies. Several sites are outright wicked – deliberately disseminating fake news for their own political, social or financial agenda. Some recent examples of fake news take from the website Snopes.com are:
(1) Pastor Eaten by Crocodiles While Trying to Walk on Water?
(2) Pastor Scarborough Blame Women’s Impure Thoughts for Breast Cancer? and
(3) Russian Scientists Discovered a “Cure” for Homosexuality?.
I am sure some of you have received this fake news in Whatsapp recently –
“Pls take note… When you go to coffee shop, hawker center to have your meals, DO NOT throw your used tissue into bowl, on plate, or cup! My friend just got fined $200! This is real!” Whatsapp Mar 2017
STATISTICS ON PUBLIC TRUST
It is a known fact that Facebook, Whatsapp, Google, Youtube, Twitter etc are some of the famous sites on the internet visited by millions each day. In the past, we put our trust in the traditional sources of information. Some latest statistics on public trust are enlightening:
(1) “Public trust in traditional media has fallen to an all-time low as people increasingly favour their friends and contacts on the internet as sources of news and truth… because…people now view media as part of the elite” 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (Anna Nicolaou and Chris Giles, Financial Times, Jan. 15, 2017).
(2) Less than 30% of Americans said that they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in news media “to report news fully, accurately and fairly.” (Sept 2016 Gallup Poll).
(3) Nearly 66% Americans now get news from social media & 44% get news specifically from Facebook. (Pew Research 2016).
(4) For millennials, 88% get news from Facebook regularly. (mediainsight.org study 2015).
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Fake news is as old as humanity. The reality of deception started in Genesis when Satan lied to Eve. There are many examples of false teachings and false prophets in both Testaments of the Bible. (see Neh 6:5-7; Jer 5:31, 14:14; 2 Peter 2:3 )
Paul cautions Timothy: “ For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim 4:3-4)
Christ was the target of fake news which often came from the religious leaders, including the Pharisees, Sadducees and priests, who were inspired by Satan the devil, “a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44). These people misrepresented Christ and they speak outright lies to justify their intention to condemn Him to death.
Pontius Pilate asked Jesus Christ “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
Moments before his question, Jesus told him, “…Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37). Pilate wanted to know more about the “truth” Jesus spoke of. And the answer is given throughout the Bible – the only inspired and infallible source of news with ultimate credibility and authority. Christ, as God, is the personification of truth. He embodies truth.
In His high priestly prayer, Jesus said “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) To doubting Thomas, Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Paul stated “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.” (Eph 4:21) and again “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). The psalmist declared “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever..” (Ps 119:160).
– To be continued.