Jared Wilson writes about ridiculous rumors (e.g. "Obama is a Muslim", "Palin had an affair") that surround election candidates, and how Christians are often all too willing to engage in dirty tricks in order to advance their political agendas:
Politics is yucky business, but this isn't just about politics. It's about anger, about fear, and most of all, about truth.From a gospel perspective, it makes sense that the world would not place a high premium on truth.
These days it only takes one enterprising blogger to create a story and before long the entire nation is buzzing with b.s.
The Church, however, is playing gleefully right along. That Obama/Antichrist thing? Some so-called Christian put that piece together to scare up some political leverage, and plenty of truth-deficient Christians ate it up. And passed it around. I got the email from a relative.
Why do we eat this stuff up? Why aren't we different?
Christians follow Jesus, who is The Truth. This means we should be people set apart, keepers of truth, zealous about truth, relentlessly devoted to protecting and perpetrating truth.
When we buy into and pass along lies about public figures we don't mind vilifying -- whether Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal -- we commit a double sin. We are playing party to lies and in doing so we are playing party to hating our neighbor.
Read it all, for it is good.
I fully agree with Wilson that Christians should never engage in dirty tricks in any domain just to get an advantage. Small lies cannot serve greater truths -- they are simply lies.
However, I think that Wilson is erroneously assuming that Christians who pass on e-mail forwards and preposterous rumors, such as that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, are doing so dishonestly. Remember Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
I, for one, am constantly amazed at the number of people, including mature Christians, who believe in the wildest conspiracy theories simply because they heard them through e-mail forwards.
My mother and library school taught me to believe half of what I see and none of what I hear, and as I get older, I'm inclined to think that they were being optimistic. But I don't think that such reflexive skepticism is the norm.
Many people are just far too willing to accept any information, regardless of veracity, that supports their worldview. One thing that I've learned in my life, particularly in the past few months, is that cognitive dissonance is among the most powerful forces in the universe.
UPDATE: In the comments, Jockeystreet points us to this excellent post at slacktivist, which examines responses to a crackpot conspiracy theory about Proctor & Gamble.
It gets me thinking: perhaps we're both making a mistake in framing our analysis with Hanlon's Razor.
Stupidity and malice are not necessarily mutually exclusive.