As if we didn’t have enough trouble with the COVID19 virus itself, we constantly hear stories questioning how serious the current outbreak is and what precautions should be taken to deal with it. I’m pretty much settled on trusting the information coming from proven professionals in the field, but I’m amazed at what some of my friends are posting on social media. To me, their sources are obviously putting out fake news, for whatever reason, but I’ve been surprised to find that my friends are also pretty quick at labeling my sources as fake news.
“Fake news” is a term I can’t remember hearing before the last few years; now the phrase is flying all over the place, used indiscriminately to cast doubt on everything we hear. Sometimes it feels as if there is no factual truth anymore, and we can all decide for ourselves what is real and what isn’t.
This trend seems to have been magnified by the COVID-9 pandemic we’re experiencing. (If anyone reading this thinks my use of the term “COVID-19 pandemic” is fake news, please stop reading right now and go watch “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”) A headline is sometimes matched by an opposite headline within the same news cycle. When the stakes are so high — potentially life or death for thousands of people — it’s frustrating not to be able to base decisions on solid, unquestioned facts.
Well, this Sunday’s Bible portion in our current sermon series, the New Testament book known as Second Peter, focuses on just that problem. In the early Church’s first great pressure cooker crisis, the persecution that began under the Roman Emperor Nero, the actual threat was complicated by an abundance of fake news coming from all sorts of false teachers that, at times, threatened to drown out the truth. On Sunday, Pastor Connie will show you how difficult this was for leaders of the Church, as they tried to guide their congregations through the perilous times. The author writes:
I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. . . . For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:12, 16)
“Cleverly devised myths” is a good description for a lot of the fake news we’re seeing around the COVID-19 virus: where it came from, how widespread it is, how to cure it, how deadly it is, etc. Some of the stuff we hear can certainly be described as “cleverly devised,” and the word “myth” gets across the reality that it’s often based more on fantasy than fact.
Toward the end of Second Peter, the author raises an interesting question/challenge. It’s not, “In a pressure cooker like this, how can you figure out what to believe?” but, “In a pressure cooker like this, what sort of person should you be?” (3:11)
– Pastor George Van Alstine