Our responsibility to avoid media hysteria — Hannah Viviers


A monthly column on purpose, passion and power in Jesus.

Do you remember the time the “news” of Joyce Meyer’s death spread?

“News” in inverted commas because it turned out to be a hoax.

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A hoax that who spread? Christians.

I know, it sounds like I’m being harsh, judgemental.

But who else cared about the alleged death of Joyce Meyer other than the Christian community?

The rumour spread like wildfire. I saw it on a Facebook friend’s wall.

I can’t say for sure what my first thoughts were because it was a while ago, but before I Liked, Commented or (thank goodness!), Shared, I did a quick search engine check to see if there had been other news reports about Meyer’s passing.

If it were true, I thought, then being as huge as she was in the Christian community there would be plenty of reports about it.

Instead, what I found were reports saying this was yet another death hoax.

I even came across a YouTube video with Joyce Meyer saying, “…I am alive and well.”

Why hadn’t all the Christians, who made this hoax go viral, not checked the facts before they joined in sharing a lie?

Social media mania
I mean, I don’t get it right all the time, but I’ve learned to do a little digging before I Like, Share or Comment on posts.

And that’s really what my piece is about today — the mad frenzy to Like, Comment, Share without cross checking what we’re spreading.

The very dangerous part about mania, especially around news reports and social media posts, is that Christians are diving in just as much.

Take, for instance, what I can only call mass hysteria over US President Donald J Trump.

One of the recent “news” reports that caused tremendous outrage, across the globe, regarding President Trump was his alleged harsh treatment of migrant children.

Oh! How Trump-haters clambered onto that bandwagon saying this was further proof of his purported racism.

What many people who shared these reports didn’t do was their own research.

Because had they done, they would have found various articles that reported that under the Obama administration migrant children were treated a lot worse.

Under the media-darling Obama administration migrant children were locked up in cages.

What many who shared photos of migrant children in cages didn’t know was that, what they were circulating, were photos that had been taken as far back as 2014, when Barack Obama was President.

Even former staff in the Obama administration tweeted these photographs, not realising that they were spreading images of what had happened to migrant children, during their administration — on their watch, not Trump’s.

There are many more examples I can give regarding this spread of false or biased information.

But I want to reserve my word count to get to the real point of my article: As Christians we cannot afford to fall into herd mentality.

The danger of herd mentality
We can dice it, splice it, mince words, but that’s where we are as a community: falling into a trap set up by a world that hates our God and all He stands for.

How we’re not seeing that, particularly through mainstream media reports, is shocking to me.

Most mainstream media have a track record of rubbishing godly values — how can we overlook that?

When we look back at history there is something very clever, yet cunning, that all dictatorial regimes do. They prey on sensitivities people they want to control have by creating an enemy they can use to increase those sensitivities to hysteric levels.

Once there is widespread hysteria, mob mentality breaks loose and the dictatorial regime gains (or maintains) the control it seeks.

I see it happening in South Africa, America and the global community as a whole — through various avenues but especially through communication platforms such as news agencies and social media.

As Christians we are supposed to be set-apart. We’re supposed to be light in the darkness, but how can we be that when we too have joined the mass hysteria?

Like I said, I don’t always get it right. I too get caught up in the heat of a moment, but I’m learning to pause before I Like, Comment or Share.

As believers, our opinions and stance on issues matter on a far larger scale because we represent the Kingdom of God.

It’s not just about fact-checking — or being for or against; it’s about representing our King well and having the discernment to fight the good fight of faith.

For or against?
One of the things God has challenged me on recently has been the futility of my opinions.

When I’ve been in debates with friends over various issues, I’ve felt (as I’m sure they have too) that there is a right and wrong side of each argument.

But then, God reminded me of Joshua 5.

Here, the Children of Israel are about to take on Jericho.

Just before they do the Bible tells us that a commander of the Lord appeared to Joshua.

When Joshua saw the commander he asked: “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” — Joshua 5:13 (New American Standard)

The New Living Translation version reads: “Are you friend or foe?”

Keep in mind that after all God has done for the nation of Israel, it would be assumed that this commander of the Lord would be for Israel.

And yet, when asked whether he was a friend or enemy of Israel, the commander of the Lord answered: “Neither one. I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” — Joshua 5:14 (New Living Translation)

My prayer is that as children of God our response to everything we come across would be the same: We’re neither friend nor foe. We are of the Lord’s army.

One Comment

  1. Excellent article. Thank you. May we all check our facts before passing on. Bless you.