Developing a Wesleyan “Fake News” Filter
We live and serve in an “information” age so how are we doing as ministry leaders in processing the news presented in popular culture? A new term has emerged in recent years called “Fake News.” The Cambridge Dictionary offers the following definition: “False stories that appear to be news, spread on the Internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke.”
Our role as kingdom leaders is to spread the gospel or “Good News” of Jesus. This puts us in the communication business along with politicians, entertainers, podcasters, bloggers and members of the traditional media. How should we filter the information we are receiving? How can we help people understand there is transformational good news from God that offers hope and transcends turbulent temporal events? Here are five quick suggestions toward developing a Wesleyan filter for processing the news, fake or otherwise.
- Process news and information calmly. The recently re-discovered World War II British motto, “Keep Calm and Carry On” is an apt description for how we should process the information presented to us. Headlines are designed as “clickbait” with the hope that sensational claims will emotionally move us to continue reading or watching a particular media source. Our example for calmness in the face of processing emotional or sensational news would be Jesus who never over-reacted when given upsetting news.
- Process news and information kindly. The presentation of information can “trigger” a variety of emotional responses. When we are passionate about an issue, we are inclined to immediately take sides. As missional kingdom leaders and ambassadors, our response to news can affect the receptivity people will have to the good news we hope to present. Responding to triggering news kindly opens up greater possibilities for our ability to present the message of Christ. Albert Schweitzer stated, “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”
- Process news and information communally. E. Stanley Jones was one of the most effective missionaries of the 20th century. His ability to bring people together for dialogue was legendary. He traveled to nations in conflict to promote peace and reconciliation. “Peace,” he said, “is a by-product of conditions out of which peace naturally comes. If reconciliation is God’s chief business, it is ours—between man and God, and between man and man.” In our increasingly divided era, communal processing can take news meant to divide and help us facilitate spiritual and social reconciliation.
- Process news and information contextually. There is a popular saying that states, “All politics is local.” It is important that we as Christian leaders maintain the ability to filter news according to its impact on the people we serve. “Think globally and act locally” is a good filter but we should also prioritize thinking locally when presented with news that we may have no ability to influence, let alone control. We as leaders can model wisdom by equipping people to prioritize news according to our context.
- Process news and information in a Christ-centered way. John Wesley said that he was a “man of one book,” meaning that the Bible was his filter for processing everything in life. The Bible is a Christ-centered book. When we process news in a Christo-centric way, the Scriptures serve as a narrative through which we can filter the information we receive. The Scriptures reorient how we process the news. For example, the Bible emphasizes justice for the poor and oppressed. The Bible calls us to prioritize worship of God and prayer and offering forgiveness to those who oppose us. All of these suggestions are important, but this one is imperative for missional leaders; make the Scriptures your key filter for processing news and information in your life.
To learn more about helping people in need, see the following resources:
Green, Joel B., Watson, David F. (2012). Wesley, Wesleyans, and Reading the Bible as Scripture. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.
Intellectual contributor: Dr. Eric Hallett, district superintendent of the Central Canada District of The Wesleyan Church.
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle