Sunday, December 29, 2019

Guarding Against Falsehood in the New Year

"You shall not spread a false report.” (Exodus 23:1)

Perhaps for the new year, we can commit to not sharing false, misleading, and fake news? Perhaps we can be proactive in this regard by fact-checking memes, quotes, and stories before sharing them, rather than depending on others to do that work for us?

It is usually not difficult to get more information with the resources available online. Usually a brief internet search is all that is needed. And if you don’t have time to verify what you share on social media or in conversation, perhaps you should share less? And if you share something that is possibly true but not verified and without a source, then perhaps you can at least include a disclaimer to that effect?

We and the news articles we share will continue to be fallible, but by proactively guarding against false reports, you will contribute to the well being of society and do good to “your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you” (Prov. 3:29). Preserving truth and honesty is a shared project. We are in this together. It both requires you to be discerning with the reports you read and hear, as well as discerning with the reports you share. It not only forbids slander rooted in malicious intent, but it also forbids negligence in the effort to guard against falsehood and preserve the good name of others.

This year will be an election year, and if it is like the last one, it is sure to bring with it misinformation, falsehood, half-truths, misleading claims, and fake stories designed to provoke outrage. And this is in addition to the regular temptation to spread a false report. So be on your guard, love your neighbor, and take responsibility for your communications, remembering the ninth commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Ex. 20:16).

"Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
"A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor's good name, especially in witness bearing."
(Westminster Shorter Catechism)

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