Christians and a Responsibility to Truth

July 21, 2010

Two news stories, one in the evangelical world and one in the political world, remind us that while Christians have a responsibility toward truth and grace, we don’t always uphold that.

Ergun Caner is a professor at Liberty University and was, until recently, Dean of the School of Religion. I didn’t get too deep into the weeds on this story, but apparently a few bloggers found discrepancies in his rather compelling conversion story. However, many prominent evangelicals,  have stood up for Dr. Caner. What was telling from my point of view as a very detached observer is that Christian bloggers were willing to stand with Muslim bloggers in attacking a very respected man of God. That’s not to say Dr. Caner was without blame, but from reading the articles, it seems the “discrepancies” were very minor, chalked up to human exaggeration and bad memory. I’m a public speaker, I preach every Sunday and sometimes my recollections of things in the past may not be as clear as they really were. To Dr. Caner’s credit, he did apologize for any inconsistencies and has been gracious in his response.

The second story is in the political world, the dustup over Shirly Sherrod, who was fired from her post in the Agriculture Department because of an edited video posted by the conservative, Andrew Breitbart. It appeared to have shown that Sherrod demonstrative prejudice in her dealing with white farmers. The since-released whole video shows her to be sharing a very compelling personal story. The clip went around the conservative media world, from talk shows to blogs to Fox News, etc. The only problem is that it was out of context and untrue. But the rush to judgement had begun and Sherrod was fired by the Agriculture Department.

Again, I didn’t have time to dive too deep into the weeds on this one, but reading Twitter and occasionally glancing at news sites, it was remarkable to me how easily the conservative political world wants to jump on stuff like this, without getting the whole facts.  And yes, I know the liberals do it. But “the liberals do it too” doesn’t make it right.

I think this an opportunity for Christians to take a deep breath. What frustrates me sometimes is the willingness of Christians to believe anything bad about the people who are on the other ideological spectrum from us. I get probably ten to twelve emails a day from Christians who forward their political emails. Sometimes I’m glad to be made aware of newsworthy items of concern or praise. But mostly I delete them, because they are filled with conspiracy theories and rush-to-judgment political observations that are either half-truths or snarky assumptions.

I think Christians can and should do better than this. For some reason we seem to think its okay to suspend Scripture when it comes to politics. But Christians should be about truth, not rumor-mongering. Why is it okay for us to believe the latest gossip or half-truths about Democrats and liberals?

I’m reminded of Philippians 4:8, which encourage us to think on whatever things are “true, pure, honest, lovely, of good report.” The true part is not an option. And even when things are true about people we don’t like, we should dwell on them. Now, admittedly, I have a hard time doing this. I like to dwell on the ugly side of people I don’t like.

That doesn’t mean we should lay down and accept an unbiblical worldview. It doesn’t even mean we shouldn’t work toward and vote for Christian values. But when our politics comes before our faith, when we begin to take our behavioral cues only from the conservative heroes we listen to, watch, and read all day long, instead of Jesus, then we’ve got a problem.

That means we might think twice about tearing down someone on a blog, especially a Christian brother. Even if we disagree. Perhaps we should think twice about forwarding conspiracy theory emails about the President. We might even pray for him. Most of all, we should live as if Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer, as if the last page of the Bible is really true. And our deepest passions shouldn’t be invested in hating the Democrats, but in fighting the real Enemy, Satan, and in doing battle to share the good news of the Gospel with those caught in his grasp.