Category Archives: Blog

Developing Our Palates for Truth in a Fake News Era

Introduction

With the increased conversation around Fake News, I thought it would post a short section on discerning truth in a Fake News era from my book “Age of Kings: Pursuing God’s Heart in a Social Media World.” Buy it Amazon.

Book Excerpt

As we get more and more of our news and information online and through social media, it is vital that we discern between truth and falsehood in the information we are consuming and filter it accordingly.

Just as food critics spend years developing their palates in an effort to distinguish gourmet food made with high-quality ingredients from foods made with artificial ingredients, we need to develop our palates for truth in a world that’s saturated with information. As we train our information-palates to discern correctly, it is vital to identify the six things that aid us to discern truth in an era of fake news.

First, smell it. Smell has a distinct connection to our sense of taste and can help us in our initial assessment. When you see a post, article, video, or meme, ask yourself some initial questions. Is it satire (a surprising number of people have experienced instant outrage at a post, posing as news, when it was really satire)? Does it sound too good to be true (is it playing off your confirmation bias)? Does the headline sound overly provocative (a technique used by clickbait to get you to read something)? Does it look like part of a larger story (stories presented out of their full context can be misleading)?

Second, check the ingredients. Any food critic with a discerning palate knows that fresh organic ingredients always create the best food. Thus, when you are faced with news, posts, videos, or memes, ask the following questions. What are the underlying facts that it is based on (are they from a reputable source)? Is there a scientific study referenced to prove the solution presented (choosing your cancer treatment based on something you read on someone’s blog is not the best medical advice)? What statistics are they using?

Third, check the source. Food connoisseurs know that where ingredients come from makes all the difference. As you evaluate the information shared on social media, check its source. First, look at the web address or original social media account it comes from. Is it from a trusted and legitimate source? If you have any concerns or even a suspicion, do a quick check with a factchecking service online (several exist). Check if the source has a known bias or agenda they are propagating, and consider whether this might affect or influence the information they are giving you.

Fourth, taste it. Food critics know to look past the description and presentation and taste the food. Once you’ve smelled it, inspected the ingredients, and looked at the source, read it and think about it. Truth will always stand the test of examination and reflection. Ask, does it align with the other facts that you know to be true? If not, explore why not. If so, do a sober second thought and double-check if your confirmation bias or your intentional information avoidance tendencies might be at work.

Fifth, discuss it. Truth tends to withstand cross-examination by the community, while fake news does not. The multiple perspectives provided by diverse people help us to see things differently, to ask different questions, and to discern more accurately. Therefore, what if instead of using social media to post with confidence, we used it to discern? What if we were to post a meme with a question (Is this true?) rather than a pronouncement (This is true!). Social media could use more question marks and fewer exclamation marks.

Sixth, savor it. If it is true, savor it. Truth should always take time to process. Allow the new information you have gathered to digest slowly, and see whether it challenges your preconceived ideas and perspectives or affirms your convictions. Remember, truth doesn’t cower from critical reflection and examination; rather, truth dances with joy in their presence.

“Age of Kings” Book Release

November 1st marks the release of my newest book, “Age of Kings: Pursuing God’s Heart in a Social Media World.”

Age of Kings follows the life and reign of King David, taking my area of interest and academic study (social media and its impact on society) and framing it in a hopeful pastoral voice. Social media has given everyone the power once only held by kings and queens and we are largely unequipped to handle it.

Age of Kings addresses the issues of our social media age: personal propaganda, #hashtivism, acquaintance-friendships, trolls, selfies, desire, cognification, and fake news. Like a guidebook for the newly crowned kings and queens of this age, Age of Kings equips the reader to discover their true worth and identity, to conquer giants, to experience true friendship, to share their life authentically, to give all glory to God, to walk in sexual wholeness, to embrace humility, and to seek truth in community.

Age of Kings endeavors to help the reader understand this disruption as well as equip them to wield it for the furtherance of God’s kingdom and mission.

Don’t miss this important resource!

Available now on Amazon

A Personal Prayer in a Global Crisis

Gracious Father,

Our world is in distress. Our world is in crisis. My heart is confused. My heart is broken.

I wrestle with hatred, the need for vengeance, and the desire to turn my back on the those in need with calculated apathy. Yet, I know that You and Your kingdom are real, beautiful and more powerful than anything I can even imagine, so I pray this prayer with faith and hope:

God, I pray for the unfathomable amount of refuges who are desperately fleeing terror and unspeakable horror into the unknown, away from everything and everyone they know. You are not ignorant to this Jesus. In fact, this is part of your incarnational story – a child en route with His teenage parents as refugees in Northern Africa, escaping tyranny and the impending slaughter of innocent children in Israel. May the refugees of our world find Jesus as their Comforter, Saviour and Lord in the midst of their desperation and may the Church of Christ love, welcome and embrace through radical hospitality those who are experiencing the terror of war. May I have the courage and generosity to feed the hungry, give a cup of cold water, and even the shirt off my back to those in need. These are not simply Your poetic words of suggestion but Your profound call for my life. As I love, may others see the love of You, Jesus, in my words and in my deeds.

Change me, Jesus!

God, may you teach me what it truly means to love my enemy. I admit, this has been a foreign and largely theoretical reality for me in North America. It is easy to say, “I love my enemy” in times of security but in the face of fear, it is proving to be extremely difficult. Your call for me to love is beyond my ability. I am not entirely sure how to love my enemy but I know it doesn’t look like apathy, fear, scarcity, prejudice, malice, revenge or hatred.

Change me, Jesus!

God, may you teach me to love my neighbour as the Good Samaritan did – loving my profoundly different neighbour in practical, costly and inconvenient ways. Help me to love those who profess belief in a different god, religion or ideology as I do. You never gave exceptions or exclusions to love! Forgive me for doing so in my actions and inactions to those who are different from me.

Change me, Jesus!

God, help me pastor and parent in the midst of brokenness. Help me lead the church in radical love of the other, different, immigrant, broken, lost, refugee, etc. Help me lead your church with wisdom, mercy, grace and lavish love. Help me parent my children who are learning how to navigate this world as followers of you, Jesus. May they see from my example, someone who loves like You, even in the face of fear.

Change me, Jesus!

God, as I look into the world you profoundly love, watch the news on TV, browse my Facebook feed, or read internet comments, I am reminded that our world isn’t much different than the one you found yourself in two thousand years ago. The idea of loving our enemy, the religiously different, those who hurt us, and those we are afraid of, are the very ideas that took large crowds of Your followers and left You with a small few – it is hard teaching. It is easy to say I will love all when I am not afraid, but when fear grips my heart, help me to love all – even my enemy.

Change me, Jesus!

Change me, Jesus! By the power of the Holy Spirit, change me!

May I have the strength, courage and boldness to storm the gates of hell with the advancing weapons of truth, love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and grace – as I do, may I have the confidence to know your promise that the gates of hell will not prevail.

In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Crossing the Social Media Bridge

The following is also published in The Vermilion Standard

I have never personally seen Confederation Bridge but I hear it is something to behold. Spanning thirteen-kilometers, the bridge drapes the Abegweit Passage of the Northumberland Strait, connecting Prince Edward Island with the mainland (New Brunswick). It is an amazing feat of engineering and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the longest bridge over ice (winter).

In many ways, it is a perfect metaphor for social media and its ability to connect people like never before. For the first time in history, people have the ability to connect instantly with multiple people, in multiple places, across multiple devices and in multiple languages (using translation technology). In this way, social media is a gift to humanity and a bridge that has the potential to bring people together in unprecedented ways.

Although our hyper-connected world has given us the ability to connect with more people faster and further than ever before, paradoxically, people have never felt more alone. It is a phenomenon Sherry Turkle terms as, “Alone Together.”

In the midst of this unprecedented hyper-connected world, people are increasingly feeling isolated and alone. In many ways, social media has given us the gift of a bridge but we haven’t learned to cross it into the deep and meaningful relationships it has the potential to help facilitate. Just as a bridge is not the end but the means to the end, social media is a means to relationship rather than the relationship you need to have.

To put it another way, too many people have a relationship with social media rather than utilizing social media as a means to have increasingly meaningful relationships with others. Building on the bridge metaphor, we have gotten on the bridge and enjoyed the view but few of us have learned to cross it and experience the wonders on the other side.

We are challenged to then use social media as a bridge to friendship not the destination.

Consider this wisdom given in the Bible about friendship: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24, ESV

So many of us are “friends” with more people than we were before social media but we are still very alone. We have not experienced the gift of true friendship with others that social media has promised to provide. Therefore, my challenge for us is to use social media as the bridge it is destined to be rather than a destination of desertion. Let us use it to cross barriers and experience the deep community and friendships we were created for.

We were created to live on the other side of the bridge – in rich community – but too many of us are lost on it, unaware of what is available on the other side.

Using a Thermometer in Your Marriage

*This following will also be published in The Vermilion Standard

Wedding season is upon us and, like many pastors, my weekends begin to fill up with weddings as couples celebrate and commit to each other before their loved ones and their God. During this wedding season, I thought it would be appropriate to share some marriage advice for couples preparing to get married and for married couples who desire to grow in their marital relationship.

As I journey with couples preparing to get married, I always encourage them to spend as much time and energy preparing for the marriage as they spend on their wedding ceremony. Thus, in preparation for their marriage, I spend several sessions with couples working through some material that helps build communication, creates good conversations and offers good advice in an effort to create the best foundation for long term marital happiness and success.

One of the many lessons I try to instill in couples is how to take the temperature during an argument/disagreement/fight. In an effort to help couples fight well, it is important to allow a temperature check (for yourself and, at times and with permission, for your partner). To often, in arguments we react rather than respond to issues or situations, unnecessarily escalating conflict and shutting down communication.

For example, if your partner forgets to turn the lights off in the house, what is the appropriate response? A reactionary response often escalates the problem by reacting to it in a way that doesn’t match the issue or situation. Yelling and screaming or storming off in silence would not be a healthy response that reflects the issue and situation.

Practically, when arguing, I suggest couples take the time to do a temperature check on their reactions and responses. For example, when something happens and you react ask: “On a scale of one to ten, how serious was the offense? Then ask: “Is my response equal to the offense. If not, why not? Is there something else going on? How should I respond to my partner appropriately about this?”

As Proverbs 15:1 reminds us: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Too many times, arguments unnecessarily escalate because harsh words are used and tempers rage in a way that is unmatched to the situation/issue at hand. Therefore, next time you are in a fight with your significant other, do a temperature check on our reaction/response and ask: “Does it match? If not, why not? What else might be going on?”

In your marriage (as with all relationships), take the time to use the reaction thermometer and fight well. Endeavour to always respond rather than react – your marriage will be healthier for it.