Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13–18
Originally published June 7, 2020
Our previous two posts considered the nature of false witness, the self-deception required to put it into action, and the ease with which it can take place in our era. Too much data, work, screens, and stress can move us toward an indifference regarding what we hear and what we pass off to others as fact. But there is more than lethargy to account for the Church’s fascination with loud liars. For though we decry the evils of the misleading media, why do we frequently tune in for more? More than that, what moves us from merely hearing the lies to promoting them to others?
Reason Two: False Witness Feels Safe
When does ignorance become willful ignorance? Few could accuse Plandemic devotees of apathy or suggest that Anti-maskers are unprincipled, for these are educated people who are convinced of the righteousness of their cause.1 The problem lies not in a lack of principle but in an unswerving devotion to skewed principles that have grown too holy to suffer scrutiny.
There is an astounding zeal that animates those ensnared in reactionary movements, a momentum that has nothing to do with the issues they are touting. Were truth the real issue, it would be resolved through solid research and patient discussion; however, the exact opposite occurs within fringe groups because the accumulation of sound evidence against their assertions only galvanizes their commitment. This animates them into further extremism and reveals a blinding faith that will not see the truth, a deeper issue that remains hidden under diatribe, dogma, and data.
This is further affirmed by the emotionalism and vitriol invoked by staunch advocates and their devotees who regard their cause with a gravity that forbids all discussion. There is room for neither dialogue nor inquiry in the platform of these parties. Enslaved by fear, the mentality is “Red alert!” all day, every day. But this speaks to only part of the issue, for who is it that gives these movements an audience?
To have a cultic obedience to “the truth” is not far from any one of us. Modern media thrives through our animosity and anxiety over compartmentalized issues. We login to social media programs that permit us to create artificial communities that coddle our assumptions. What’s more, we readily push our opinions onto others through one-sentence declarations and shared posts that we haven’t bothered to verify or even read. We’re afforded all the perks of influence without the burdens of a face-to-face discussion.2
We avidly follow talk shows that have a greater resemblance to staged wrestling matches than honest conversation, and our devotion to yellow journalism and extremist declarations suggests that we do not go to media to find truth but companionship. The pain and uncertainty of life have taken a toll on us, and we need someone who understands our anger. But when we turn off the talking heads, we are just as empty as before (Jer. 5:30–31) because overconfidence doesn’t create true safety, and feeling right doesn’t amount to a relationship (Jer. 2:13; Isa. 8:6–8).
There are reasons why we run to the media instead of facing real life. Life is terrifying. Senseless violence and tremendous loss are everyday occurrences. Innocent people are slaughtered, often by their own governments. Children are trafficked and used, even by their own parents. Good people make good choices, give their all, and fail anyway. Wicked people live long lives and die comfortable deaths. Perhaps most unsettling of all is the fact that we can experience the love of God and that of our loved ones, yet betray all of them. All of this is encompassed in a reality that is often too much for us to handle. Terror takes hold of the heart, and the heart takes hold of the head.3
Yet in the midst of all of this is the quiet voice of God, choosing to speak to us through an unassuming, ancient book. The Bible is exceptional in so many ways, but its most remarkable feature may be its unexceptionalism—its humanity. Its pages are filled with stories and expressions of life as it is and not as we would like it to be. Good people suffer, wicked people accomplish wicked deeds, and entire nations surrender to self-destruction. The awfulness of sin is on full display and the heaviness of grief is repeatedly expressed. In its pages we find that God knows us and is moved by our plight; we find companionship.
Facing the Need
The belligerence and bluster of a false witness mask a deep need for compassion and comfort. If I need something that is false to be true—if I need to be right—it is because I am afraid and hurting. The answer is found in an honest relationship with God and with those who love God. The same can be said of those committed to pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. What if we could learn to say no to their arguments but yes to their need? I want to learn how to say, “I’m not so sure about that, but I am interested in you. How are you doing?”
Have a question or comment? We’d love to hear from you. Submit your response in the box below.
1. On the viral movie Plandemic, see Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins, “As ‘#Plandemic’ Goes Viral, Those Targeted by Discredited Scientist’s Crusade Warn of ‘Dangerous’ Claims,” NBCNews.com, May 7, 2020; and Vincent Ianelli, “Who Is Judy Mikovits?” Vaxopedia, last updated May 9, 2020. For a discussion of Anti-maskers, see Poppy Noor, “No Masks Allowed: Stores Turn Customers Away in US Culture War,” The Guardian, May 22, 2020.
2. Those interested in Social Media and its influence on discourse may be benefited by Michael P. Lynch’s Know-It-All-Society (New York: Liveright Publishing, 2019). The third chapter, “The Outrage Chapter,” considers the role Social Media plays in the polarization of American society.