Opinion

A warning on fake news, setting the record straight

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw does not share the same biblical worldview which I espouse. But I agree with the legendary newsman who is worried about the condition of American journalism. Southern Baptists ought to pay attention.

“I think the most extraordinarily powerful tool and the most destructive development in modern life is the current media,” said the author and TV Hall of Famer in a recent interview with Artful Living magazine. He criticized the divisive nature of media and questioned if it can change. “Everybody has a voice — and I think it’s great for people to have a voice — but there’s no way to verify what’s true and what’s not. It has no context; it’s just a 24/7 rage,” Brokaw lamented.

While his remarks were primarily about the established, traditional news media, it also applies to the “Wild Wild West-like” digital world on the Internet. The proliferation of blogs, podcasts and self-proclaimed “news” sites have made finding the truth more difficult. The digital world is filled with “wanna-be journalists,” who operate without standards of conduct, much less professional training. Even such training suffers from the liberal bias that exists in America’s university journalism programs, where too many have turned to liberal, advocacy journalism rather than simply presenting facts in order of significance.

This problem hit Missouri Southern Baptists right between the eyes on Jan. 9, when a website called, Capstonereport.com, published story about a December meeting between Gov. Mike Parson and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen. The article strongly implied that the reason for Allen’s visit was to lobby the governor to accept more immigrants in Missouri under a new policy adopted by the Trump administration.

“The chatter within state GOP circles grew throughout the holiday season in Missouri about Southern Baptists lobbying the state on the refugee issue,” Capstone reported.

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“Why is SBC Cooperative Program money being used to pay the salary of Allen so he can lobby for the George Soros immigration agenda?

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“Why is Allen working to enrich the refugee resettlement contractors—government contractors that actually profit off of taxpayers by resettling refugees?” the report concluded.

The problem with this brutal attack is that Allen’s visit with the governor had nothing to do with immigration. Capstone’s story was false. How do I know? I was there.

Allen, who believes every word of the Bible is true and has dedicated his life to raising a new generation of Bible-believing, teaching pastors, was scheduled to come to the Baptist Building on Dec. 9 to visit with Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director John Yeats. Dr. Yeats asked me to arrange a brief, introductory meeting between Allen and the governor.

Governor Parson was gracious with his time. The meeting lasted five to 10 minutes. The only people in the room with Allen and the governor were Allen’s two daughters, the governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Knodell, the governor’s personal photographer and myself.

Immigration was never discussed. Allen shared with the governor all that God is doing at Midwestern. The governor was interested because he understands the seminary is the primary supplier of pastors to Southern Baptist churches in his state (the governor is a long-time member of First Baptist Church, Bolivar, a Southern Baptist congregation).

The governor recognizes the leadership role pastors fulfill in their communities. He hosts monthly clergy luncheons – which I have the privilege of coordinating – in order to dialogue with pastors about what is happening in their communities. It also gives attending pastors the opportunity to pray for the governor and his family.

This was the context in which the meeting between Allen and the governor occurred. It was a great meeting and it is a shame that such an untrue, irresponsible report can be so widely disseminated. The erroneous Capstone article prompted a sharp rebuke from me. (I usually reserve such action for the editorial boards of the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, whom I generally refer to as “The Prophets of Baal” and “The Philistines.”) However, my integrity demanded that I call on Capstone to retract the story and issue a public apology to Allen, whose integrity is impeccable. They did so just a few hours after I posted the demand on my Facebook page (although the apology was not as direct as it should have been).

The Pathway stands on God’s Word. Absolute truth exists – and we can know it. We, as Christian journalists and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, must champion truth-telling. Our credibility is at stake. No credibility, no readers. No readers, and you die as a publication. Our call by God is too great to let that happen.

The post A warning on fake news, setting the record straight appeared first on Pathway.

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