Q&A With Rev. Roger Wolsey
Question & Answer
Q: By A Reader
With the influx of so much contradictory information coming at us today, why are churches and religious leaders not doing more to help their members navigate the rapidly changing world we live in?
A: By Rev. Roger Wolsey
A most timely and relevant question. Agreed, I haven’t noticed many churches addressing this matter either. I have heard a few pastors speak to this carefully in certain sermons in regard to the big lie that “Trump won the last election,” and regarding conflicting things on the internet said about the Covid-19 virus, wearing masks, and the vaccines. I optimistically hope some churches may have written about how to identify fake news in their church newsletters or as social media posts – though I haven’t verified this. I think the reason for the lack of attention to this is likely largely due to pastors and church staff not feeling trained or equipped to address these matters – and/or, they fear that some of their parishioners will interpret such efforts as being “political”, “partisan,” or coming across as being opposed to their political leanings and loyalties. (Feel free to largely read that as, “they don’t want to upset the Trumpers.”)
I can offer the following advice:
* Make a point to listen/read/watch news sources that are rated as being more objective and factual (PBS, NPR, ProPublica, AP, Reuters, WSJ, CBS, ABC, Forbes, The Hill, The Economist, BBC, Newsweek, New York Times, The Guardian, etc.) – and to avoid sources that are rated as being less so. See adfontesmeia.
* If you come across a story about, or “quote” from, religious or political leaders who you are opposed to that seems to really get your heart rate up, and causes you to feel outrage, before you share it on social media, take some time to verify whether it’s true or not, or taken out of context. The last thing we need to be doing is to mindlessly feed the “outrage machine” – simply because of “confirmation bias.”
* Similarly, if you come across a quote that you really love and it’s attributed to Plato, the Buddha, etc. before you pass it on, take some time to search online if it’s a vetted and verified quote. If you really like the words, it’s better to find the original source and provide proper attribution – or, if you can’t find the original source, simply type out the text and put – source unknown.
* If you come across seemingly “remarkable” studies about Covid-19, masks, vaccines, Ivermectin, etc. online (esp. on YouTube), before you share that information, search (“Google”) to see if those claims have been verified or debunked. These links can also help: https://www.reuters.com/fact-check ; https://apnews.com/hub/ap-fact-check ; https://www.usatoday.com/news/factcheck/ ; https://www.snopes.com/ ; https://www.politifact.com/ ; & https://quoteinvestigator.com/
* Finally, here is an article, and two podcasts that address these matters:
1. “Science, Nonscience, and Nonsense”
2. Developing Media Literacy
3. Disinformation Society
Update: just as I was finishing this response, I came across this blog from a mainline Protestant denomination that speaks to this: “Sifting Through Misinformation”
~ Rev. Roger Wolsey
This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.
About the Author
Rev. Roger Wolsey is a United Methodist pastor who resides in Grand Junction, CO. Roger is author of Kissing Fish: Christianity for people who don’t like Christianity and blogs for Patheos as The Holy Kiss and serves on the Board of Directors of ProgressiveChristianity.Org. Roger became “a Christian on purpose” during his college years and he experienced a call to ordained ministry two years after college. He values the Wesleyan approach to the faith and, as a certified spiritual director, he seeks to help others grow and mature. Roger enjoys yoga; playing trumpet; motorcycling; and camping with his son. He served as the Director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at the University of Colorado in Boulder for 14 years, and has served as pastor of churches in Minnesota, Iowa, and currently serves as the pastor of Fruita UMC in Colorado, and also serves as the “CRM” (Congregational Resource Minister/Church Consultant) for the Utah/Western Colorado District of the Mountain Sky Conference.