Two stories have broken in the news this past week that have had people talking.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring from the Supreme Court of the United States, which means President Biden gets to nominate Breyer’s replacement. However, within a few hours of the story breaking, it was announced that Justice Breyer had not intended for the news to get out so soon (traditionally, Justices announce their retirement at the end of the Court’s term in June), and that he was upset at what had happened. Obviously, someone had leaked the news to the press and it had not even been verified (although it did turn out to be true).
Then today, it was announced that Tom Brady, a 7-time Super Bowl Champion and possibly the Greatest Quarterback of All Time, was retiring. Within minutes, it was all over the news. Again, nothing from the man himself; in fact, his own father came out and said Brady was not retiring, and Bruce Arians, the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Brady’s current team—said this was the first he had heard about it. Yet, sports networks like ESPN continued to pedal the rumor that Brady was done (not surprising; ESPN isn’t exactly known for journalistic integrity).
What if Justice Breyer or Tom Brady had come out afterward and denied the whole report? You can’t un-ring a bell, and once a story is out there it’s hard to make a retraction (actually it’s quite easy; the hard part is getting as many people to pay attention to it once the narrative is out there). Breyer is retiring, and Brady probably will as well, but it doesn’t make the media look any better.
Fortunately, these are two minor examples from the recent past (there are major examples from just the past few years), but journalism is in big trouble in this country. And it’s not just about journalism; there is a huge problem with truth. Who are you supposed to believe anymore? Who is the great arbiter of truth?
I majored in Journalism at VCU (side note: the basketball team beat the Richmond Spiders tonight in the cross-town rivalry; Go Rams!) and one of my professors once said, “if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” What he meant is that whenever you hear something, check it out for yourself to make sure it’s true.
Another famous saying in media (which is obviously not applied much anymore) is that “it’s better to be right than to be first;” if you’re the first to break a story, but you’re wrong, it doesn’t matter that you were the first: wrong is wrong. Truth is truth.
Just because a famous person says it doesn’t mean it’s right, either.
Christians are supposed to be truth-seekers. If we believe whatever we hear in the news, or from our social media feeds, or wherever else, without checking it out for ourselves, we need to be careful enough, but all the more if we hear something that goes against what the LORD says. The Apostle Paul said those in Berea searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was so (Acts 17:11), and he warns against being tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, but to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14-15). If you go to court, you swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” on penalty of perjury. How much more important to heed God’s truth! A half-truth is not truth, and truth with a little extra is not also not truth; at the very end of the Bible is a stern warning against adding to or taking away from God’s Truth (Revelation 22:18-19). John MacArthur said, “When the Word of God is not set up as the supreme authority, division is inevitable. Such happens even in evangelical churches, when pastors and other leaders begin substituting their own ideas for the truths of Scripture. The substitution is seldom intentional, but it will always happen when the Bible is neglected. A Bible that is not studied carefully cannot be followed carefully. And where it is not followed there will be division, because there will be no common ground for beliefs and practices. When the truth of Scripture is not the sole authority, men’s varied opinions become the authority.”
We live in a world where it’s hard to figure out who to believe. With so much information out there coming from so many sources (mainly the internet), it’s impossible to comprehend it all, but none of that will actually save anyone. The only source of information that can be depended on with absolute certainty is the Bible; God doesn’t change, even here in 2022. “The truth of the LORD endures forever (Psalm 117:2).”
Grace and peace,
(also, I neglected to mention recently that my presentation on Handel’s Messiah can be found here)