Love, Faith, and Fake News

You might have heard that we are now currently living in an era of “Post-Truth”. The proliferation of fake news and deepfake have caused people to question what is the true definition of the “Truth”. Anyone can twist the truth and call them fake news. Anyone can also create disinformation to create social unrest. Anyone can create deepfake and threaten anyone as they please. However, this phenomenon of disinformation isn’t something modern. In fact, “fake news” has been a problem since the ancient of days.

Beginning with the Creation story of Genesis. Who is to say that the Universe was created in seven days? Why was God’s Spirit hovering over the waters? Where did the waters came from before anything was created? Why did scientific deduction theorise that the Universe was created with a Big Bang? Why didn’t scientific deduction coincide with Biblical narratives that we are all too familiar with? Which is real? Which is fake? Who is to say, which is the truth? Who can say which is the truth unless they have witnessed it?

[The Lord asked Job] “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” — Job 38:4-7, NIV.

Since we are approaching Christmas, let me use a Christmas example. We all know the Biblical narrative of Christmas. We all heard the story about how the angel Gabriel shown himself to Mary, and then to Joseph. About how Caesar Augustus issued a decree and Joseph and Mary had to track down from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We all knew how there were no room in Bethlehem and Mary had to give birth to baby Jesus and place Him on a manger. We all knew how angels appeared to the shepherds and how the shepherds found Jesus on the manger and worshipped Him. We also knew how the three wise men trekked thousands of miles to Bethlehem and found Jesus on the manger and worshiped Him by offering gold, frankincense, and myrrh. However, did it occur to you that all of these were private events? Who is to say if these are real news, or fake news?

Remember how Muslims say that Jewish scribes “distort the Book” (Sura 3:78), or “take words out of context” and “played with words and discrediting the faith” (Sura 4:46)? Their account of Jesus’ (Isa Al-Masih) birth, though includes accurate Biblical references such as the birth of John the Baptist by Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Mary’s virgin birth, also included non-Biblical references such as the following: 1) angel Gabriel conceived Mary and Mary withdrew with Gabriel to a remote place, 2) Mary being driven to a palm tree due to labour pain, 3) Jesus/Gabriel reassured her saying “do not grieve”, 4) Baby Jesus shook the palm tree and ripe dated dropped before Mary, 5) Mary ate and was strengthened, and she vowed to keep silence about the birth, 6) and she returned to her people and was condemned by her people, 7) and baby Jesus spoke in front of everyone, saying, “I am truly a servant of Allah. He [Allah] has destined me [Jesus] to be given the Scripture and to be a prophet.” (Sura 19:1-30).

After reading both the Christian narrative of Christmas and the Islamic narrative of Christmas, which do you think is real news and which do you think is fake news?

I am not taking sides and condemning one for another. In fact, Muhammad wasn’t wrong when he condemned Jewish scribes for distorting the word of God. In fact, God Himself condemned the people saying, “How can you say, ‘We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?” — Jeremiah 8:8, NIV. 

Recall what happened immediately after Jesus’ resurrection? Matthew wrote the following in the Scriptures:

When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. — Matthew 28:12-15, NIV.

Was the story circulated by Matthew, fake news? Or was the story circulated by the soldiers and the Jews, fake news?

Fake news divides people. We see it today. We do not need to peer into the future to understand the impact of fake news in our community. Just look at how God’s believers are divided over so many religions, and we will know just how bad the impact of fake news can be. That said, a lot of people have laboured since antiquity to counter fake news. From debunking myth through archeology, to studying literature truth to map the truth. From studying the sciences to match Biblical truth with scientific evidences, to studying history to make sense of Scriptural narratives. God-fearing academics all had one goal: that is to utilise academia to point people to the One True Truth that they hold dear to, and debunking fake news in the process. But has it worked?

In humanity’s thousands of years of history, we know that scientific inquiry, though helped in our understanding of the world, cannot undo the impact fake news bring. That said, I am not suggesting that humanity is without hope. Rather, I’m suggesting the opposite. There is still one thing on the table that, I believe, more people should try. The item in question is Love.

Ask yourself, how much do you love your loved ones? Do you love them enough to the extent that if shown a deepfake of time committing indecent acts, you’ll still choose to embrace that person knowing that it isn’t that person who’s done it? Do you love your leaders enough to the extent that if shown a fake news of them mistreating people and committing atrocious acts, you will still choose to embrace and submit to them knowing that it isn’t in their character to do such things? Do you love your national leaders enough to the extent that if shown a fake news of them announcing war with another nation, you’ll tell others that it is not your nation’s character to announce such news and tell your peers that these are false? Do you love God enough to trust His leadership in every aspect of your life, regardless of what other people say?

Yes, we are not called to blindly trust. Rather, I am saying that we should build our trust on relationships. And like any relationship, we are called to build it with sharing our lives together. We are called to walk with each other. Granted, we may not be able to walk with our national leaders. But at least, we can walk our life journey with our loved ones, with our family, and with God. We can share everything that we have with them just as how they share everything they have with us. We can bond with them by asking them about their day, interact with them to find out about their lives, and commune with them from the deepest depths of our heart.

With love, we will be able to truly know a person for who he/she is. With love, we will be able to truly understand a person. With love, we will know what they like, what they dislike; what they will do, what they will not. With love, we will know what are their expectations of us, and they will know what our expectations of them are. With love, comes trust. With trust, comes faith. With faith, we are not afraid of deception. If we walk in love, we walk in the light. And in light, there is no darkness. In love, there is no fear of fake news.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. — 1 John 1:5-7, NIV.

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