Creating Our Own Reality on the Internet

IMG_6055Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 ESV

I saw the headline in this picture posted on Facebook. Since it wasn’t your normal clickbait title, I followed the link. In that article, which was on a super-uber-ultra-conservative-just-short-of-KJV-Only-kind-of-vibe website, I was shocked by the comments of the pastor of Hillsong NYC and one of the people in the picture, who seemed to be on staff as part of the worship team, at least as far as this article portrayed them.

I was deeply troubled. I met some of the Hillsong people from Australia when I lived in Orlando. I know a guy who attends Hillsong NYC. I wondered just how connected the NYC church was to the rest? It just didn’t sit right. Not just because the website was pretty opinionated. But it didn’t fit with my own experience with Hillsong’s people or ministry.

So, I contacted my friend who goes there. He gave me the low down. Yes that couple attended. One of them may have been in some sort of quasi-leadership in the choir as a volunteer, but once the church leadership found out about the two men they approached them privately, and after that conversation the couple left the church.  Apparently the couple went on the show Survivor, and when the audition tapes were released by CBS, church leadership became aware of the situation and went to the couple.

That’s a little different than “Hillsong NYC Church has an “Engaged” Openly Homosexual Couple Leading the Choir” isn’t it?

I did a little digging and found that they were pulling quotes out of different articles from all over the place, from as far back as October 2014. And many of these posts were on conservative news or opinion sites.

I later found an article from the Christian Post from back in October of 2014 where Brian Houston, the pastor of Hillsong, had issued a statement correcting some quotes that were in a New York Times article from the same time period. The NYT quotes were the ones used in this new August of 2015 post. In the statement the pastor released he says (among other things); “”Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage… I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Then I ventured into the comment section because I wanted to let them know what I had found out. Obviously this is an opinion site, not a news site, but the story they had cobbled together for their opinion was factually wrong. The site was making some strong allegations, but had not contacted the church for any statement. Several people in the comments were talking about the inaccuracies of this article.

When I posted my information, the author of the post replied by reposting one of the same quotes from his article. This quote was from January, and said some weird stuff. Things that needed to be addressed by the church. And according to my friend who attends there, it had been addressed. Context and timing matter. They refused to accept that their version of reality was wrong. I intentionally did not include a link to the article because of that fact. You can search the title and find it if you really want to see it. There is at least one more article on the same subject that appears to have gotten all of the content from the original-incorrect post.

So, here’s a very conservative website, quoting from other conservative websites and cherry picking quotes from other publications to create their own version of reality. They are creating a story from information that is more than 6 months old. Any information that differs with this story is either not mentioned, or denied by the authors when mentioned in the comments. I noticed that there was quite a bit of traffic on the post, and there were no less than 11 advertisements running down the side of this little webpage. And from the comments, a lot of people were eating it up. I guess an article on a church that actual does biblical discipline wouldn’t generate the page views they needed for ad revenue?

This is not healthy. No matter what kind of views you have on any ideas, generating content in this kind of echo chamber is bad news. And it’s very common online.

Recently there were a rash of false news stories that Christians shared without bothering to find out if they were true. Remember that one from “NBC(dot)CO” instead of .com? This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. I used to get 2-3 emails a year saying that a famous atheist (who had been dead for years) was suing to get all religious TV off the air. That was actually a lawsuit from decades ago that was filed by someone else. and thrown out of court. But someone had put the hoax together and well-meaning, but flat wrong, Christians kept falling for it.

Please, please, when you read something online, look at the source. Do some research. Do not just accept anything that comes along. It’s way too easy to see a controversial post that feeds into your own views, and fears, and just adopt it, believe, it, share it, and propagate it without doing any critical thinking on your own.

Think about it before you share it.

Update: New statement by Hillsong Senior Pastor Brian Houston about the article mentioned above.

[I updated this post with new information regarding articles in the New York Times and on Christian post, and additional articles on this subject.]

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