Walking In The Good Way

Column by Rev. Lauren Van Ham on 4 November 2021 0 Comments

The most ancient path I know is the ecological one.  Creation is an intricate living system that honors life, death and rebirth within Earth’s natural cycles; where reciprocity is honorable, and all life is sacred.  We humans, who happen to be mammals (but also a bit of a virus), have trouble remembering the path of Creation.

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With the influx of so much contradictory information coming at us today, why are churches and religious leaders not doing more to help their members navigate the rapidly changing world we live in? 


Dear Reader,

A most timely and relevant question. Agreed, I haven’t noticed many churches addressing this matter either. I have heard a few pastors speak to this carefully in certain sermons in regard to the big lie that “Trump won the last election,” and regarding conflicting things on the internet said about the Covid-19 virus, wearing masks, and the vaccines. I optimistically hope some churches may have written about how to identify fake news in their church newsletters or as social media posts – though I haven’t verified this. I think the reason for the lack of attention to this is likely largely due to pastors and church staff not feeling trained or equipped to address these matters – and/or, they fear that some of their parishioners will interpret such efforts as being “political”, “partisan,” or coming across as being opposed to their political leanings and loyalties. (Feel free to largely read that as, “they don’t want to upset the Trumpers.”)

I can offer the following advice:
* Make a point to listen/read/watch news sources that are rated as being more objective and factual (PBS, NPR, ProPublica, AP, Reuters, WSJ, CBS, ABC, Forbes, The Hill, The Economist, BBC, Newsweek, New York Times, The Guardian, etc.) – and to avoid sources that are rated as being less so. See adfontesmeia
* If you come across a story about, or “quote” from, religious or political leaders who you are opposed to that seems to really get your heart rate up, and causes you to feel outrage, before you share it on social media, take some time to verify whether it’s true or not, or taken out of context. The last thing we need to be doing is to mindlessly feed the “outrage machine” – simply because of “confirmation bias.”  
* Similarly, if you come across a quote that you really love and it’s attributed to Plato, the Buddha, etc. before you pass it on, take some time to search online if it’s a vetted and verified quote. If you really like the words, it’s better to find the original source and provide proper attribution - or, if you can’t find the original source, simply type out the text and put – source unknown.
* If you come across seemingly “remarkable” studies about Covid-19, masks, vaccines, Ivermectin, etc. online (esp. on YouTube), before you share that information, search (“Google”) to see if those claims have been verified or debunked. These links can also help: https://www.reuters.com/fact-check ; https://apnews.com/hub/ap-fact-check ; https://www.usatoday.com/news/factcheck/ ; https://www.snopes.com/ ; https://www.politifact.com/ ; & https://quoteinvestigator.com/

* Finally, here is an article, and two podcasts that address these matters:
1. “Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense”    
2. Developing Media Literacy    
3. Disinformation Society    

Update: just as I was finishing this response, I came across this blog from a mainline Protestant denomination that speaks to this: “Sifting Through Misinformation” 

~ Rev. Roger Wolsey




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