The “Honest Witness” Challenge.

“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.” (Isaiah 59:11)

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another… Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25, 29-32)

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1-2)

Let’s take a trip in the way-back machine to 2004. There was a bit of a dust-up about George W. Bush’s Texas Air National Guard records, and eventually the controversy exploded to reveal that trusted network news anchor Dan Rather was reporting this story based on forged evidence. He defended himself by saying the documents were “fake but accurate.”

Oh, how conservative bloggers, pundits, and talking heads hooted and hollered over that phrase.  Oh ho! “Fake but accurate,” indeed!

And yet.

When you examine the landscape of social media today, you find yourself awash in a sea of “fake-but-accurate.” Recycled yarns intended to shame the politicians and public figures we don’t like. Pretty easily falsifiable, but if we like how it paints our opponents, we’ll hit that “share” or “retweet” without a thought.

But here’s the problem: If we pass on a story that we know is inaccurate, or can’t be bothered to verify ourselves, that’s “tale-bearing” (gossip) at best, and outright “bearing false witness” (lying) at worst. (And “best” and “worst” here don’t even really apply, since they’re both SIN.)

I’m gonna say that again, in case you got distracted for a second: If you pass around stories that make your ideological enemies look bad without taking the time to verify them, you are in danger of being a gossip and/or a liar. 

And if you’re a Christian, you should take this VERY SERIOUSLY. Why? Because the credibility of your words and witness is affected by it.

I’m not the only one to say this. But I want to add my voice to the chorus: The sort of shameless rumor-mongering I have seen on my Facebook and Twitter timeline from professing Christians needs to stop. And it needs to stop now.

So here’s my challenge to you, Christian:

Go to your Facebook page or social media platform of choice, and take up the challenge by posting the following:

Because I believe that all my speech (including online speech) should be truthful and beneficial to my hearers; and because knowingly spreading inaccurate or unverified stories about others is morally wrong: 

I pledge not to share or perpetuate news stories online about any person (public or private), unless:

  • I am able to confirm from credible sources that the story is accurate and verifiable; AND
  • Doing so will benefit my friends and social-media followers. 

If I unwittingly share something that is later proven to be objectively false, I will gladly admit my fault and apologize publicly.

If I am challenged on a matter of opinion and/or interpretation of facts, I will seek to speak truthfully and graciously, so that–as far as it depends upon me–I can live at peace with everyone.

We need to set a new standard for honesty on social media, Christian.

Are you up to the challenge?

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3 thoughts on “The “Honest Witness” Challenge.

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