May 11, 2020
The Church’s Role in Misinformation
As Episcopalians one of our primary roles are to be evangelists spreading the Good News of Christ near and far. By the example of our lives and in conversations with family, friends and strangers we share the message sometimes awkwardly and are all on a journey to improve our witnessing. We have sometimes encountered interpretations of the scripture that are in opposition to what we have learned and have had to reconcile and address the misinformation. Examples are the biblical justification for slavery and the role of women in the church. Corporately and individually as church leaders we tackled these issues within our conventions and congregations and have successfully changed the narrative to align with our biblical teachings.
The misinformation we currently face is in the secular realm, but equally important. With the spread of the COVID- 19 pandemic, misinformation abounds, there was news that certain ethnic groups could not get the virus leading to a lack of preparedness, there was news that the virus was germ warfare leading to discrimination against ethnic groups, there was news that existing drugs were cures leading to the death of some and shortages for others, there was also news that garlic, ginger, lemon juice and a whole host of home remedies would cure the virus, all without scientific proof. And on it goes.
What should our individual and corporate role as church be in the face of this barrage of misinformation. Like many do we shake our head in disbelief, pass on to others in social media, or ignore. The stakes are too high for inaction. At minimum we can stop the spread by not further disseminating this information, secondly by addressing individually with family and friends whenever these topics arise and thirdly leaders with a greater sphere of influence can use their platforms such as church websites, email-lists, newsletters, bible-study groups, sermons etc. to point to trusted government and private health resources to dispel the misinformation that negatively impacts our corporate lives. Finally, for those who are in collaboration with government officials or the news media these issues of misinformation need to be raised and addressed, given their widespread impact on communities.