The fight to gain equal rights for all Americans was vicious in the 1950’s. Troops were called out to enforce laws that required segregation and to enforce laws that required desegregation. Emotions ran high on both sides. Moses Newson described the battle to allow a black student to enter “Ole Miss” as a “shooting war” as he talked about the reporter and the student who were killed during the struggle. Mr. Newson described a lot of the events as a reporter during the civil rights era. He described his role as recording the events so that people would know what was going on. Many called him a hero, but he reminded people that the real heroes were the kids in Little Rock who endured the hatred and abuse and the students in Clinton, Tennessee who had to walk to school. He put it this way “I just wanted to help record what was going on and record it from the viewpoint of the people who were involved.”
Truth is a powerful weapon. Reporting the truth during that time was a vivid reminder to all who heard not only about what was happening, but also about who was involved. How many people saw themselves in the hatred espoused by so many back then and changed as the saw themselves acting in hate? How many saw the courage of these kids and realized that they could admire the qualities of someone whose skin was a different color? Truth is an enemy of those who would do evil. Truth is a great friend of those who are doing right. Pilate looked at Jesus and asked “what is truth?” not realizing that he was talking to Truth personified. God warned the Israelites during the Exodus to focus on truth. “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.” (Exodus 23:1)
There are times when it seems like perception is more important than truth. News agencies used to report truth, now it seems like they are trying to change perceptions instead. What matters now isn’t whether you know what’s happening, it’s how you feel about what’s happening. As a result, we not only have 24-hour news stations proffering opinions as news, we have fake news sites set up that are designed to inflame opinion and draw readers to their advertising filled sites. How often do we share their posts based on headlines that scream of atrocities only to find out that nothing has really happened if we read the article? Fake news is a problem, but only because we have lost our appetite for finding the truth and are more eager to digest sites that confirm our opinions.
It’s easy to point the finger at the fake news sites while reminiscing of the reporters like Moses Newson who struggled to give us the truth. The real problem, though, is that we allow these sites to flourish. The question isn’t so much, “how bad is the fake news?” as it is, “are we people of integrity who will refuse to spread false news?” Too often we look at the Bible and see the indictments of the other guy; the Bible speaks to our own sins as well. Do we spread false reports – not just by quoting fake news sites, but in our personal interactions? Do we engage in gossip about friends? When we request prayer for friends are we sharing needs or engaging in gossip? In order to speak the truth and spread the truth, our personal integrity is important. That grows as our relationship with Jesus Christ grows. As we live in a world that celebrates fake news, let us always be prepared to share the truth about Jesus Christ and His mercy and forgiveness that’s available to all.
Oh Lord, there is something satisfying about being in on secrets about other people, true or not. It makes me feel important to pass along that news to others. Remind me that I am called to proclaim Your truth to a skeptical world. Let my life be an example of the difference living in Truth makes.