You know this, right?
On a surface level, “don’t believe everything you read” means read the whole article, not just the headline and check your sources. A couple examples from this past week: a New York Times headline read, “Churches, Strip Clubs and Bars are Spreading the Coronavirus.” (The headline was later changed to “Churches and Bars are Spreading the Coronavirus.”) Some well-meaning people forwarded the article to me, but only one megachurch was mentioned, where people did not practice social distancing or wear masks. Then I fell for some clickbait on AOL: “You’ll be shocked at the number of people who have never even heard of the coronavirus.” Turns out they were Somalian refugees who had been walking for months to escape violence.
These days it’s hard to figure out what’s safe and what’s not. Some of the topics require a lot of research (which in the old days meant digging through the stacks in the library basement, but today mean looking at the second and third pages of search results). The current consensus on air conditioning is that it’s safe if windows are also open and the flow of air is not directly onto a person. The early warnings were based on a single study in which a man from Wuhan sat in front of an air conditioning unit and got all the nearby people infected.
Now let’s look deeper. “Don’t believe everything you read” has to do with proportion as well. Of the top 25 stories in Sunday’s online New York Times, only two could be construed as positive: 1) Most Americans trust medical experts and 2) Son Sails Solo Across Atlantic to Reach Father, 90. As for AOL, it’s hard to tell what’s news and what’s not, but about ten stories into the list we find “The Health Benefit of Eating Potatoes.”
What if one were to go a day without “news?” No TV, radio or online news? One’s top stories might be, “Another beautiful day” or “Friendly People Saying Hi to Strangers on the Street” or “Small Town Shops Happy to Open, Packed With New Inventory” or “Ocean Temperature Rises 10 Degrees in One Week, Swimmers Delighted” or “Grass Grateful for Brief Downpour” or “Neighbors Have New Puppy.”
After such a day, would one be tempted to peek at the news, to see what we “might have missed?” When we allow the news to dictate our mindset and mood, we’re already missing the most crucial information.
What if we were to get our news from church? Recurring events and continuous goodness tend not to make the news. But one of the most popular Bibles is The Good News Bible. From church (online or in person) we hear the real news: that God is in control, that we are forgiven, that we are blessed, that we are loved, and that we can make a difference by forgiving, blessing and loving others.
Cynics might respond, “Don’t believe everything you read, including the Bible.” I agree! The same rules apply: 1) Read the whole thing (now you’re groaning); and 2) Check your sources. In other words, find out where the Bible came from, who wrote it, what it meant to people at the time it was written, how it’s been interpreted over time, and how it has changed lives for the better and continues to do so. It’s a big book; it can withstand the scrutiny.
Finally, don’t believe everything you read, even if I write it. Google the articles, look up the Scriptures, practice the recommendations and see if they work. I believe there is more goodness in the world than we can possibly comprehend. Not sure you agree? Turn off the news and head outside!