Have you noticed the river of terrible news running through your Facebook feed? Spoiler: there’s a lot.
The more awful the story, the more likely it’s going to get shared. In fact, if it’s horrific enough, it doesn’t even have to be true. One of the things that surprises me most is how many of these horrible news stories get shared by Christians.
I’ve had a couple conversations recently about the deluge of stories featuring stuff like murders, molestation, and kidnapping on Facebook which confirmed my suspicions that Christians are pretty quick to hit share.
I’m not just talking about stories like ISIS or the natural disasters that actually have some bearing on all our lives. I’m talking about horrendous and sensational news stories that might have an impact on local families in Topeka, KS, but get shared in Honolulu.
In the past I talked about the fact that Christians need to quit sharing hoaxes, and it’s true. We shouldn’t be so quick to share half-truths and made up stories. But we need to realize that the reason so many of us are so quick to share hoaxes is because we’re often lining up to be the first bearers of bad news (which so many hoaxes are).
Could there be something in the worldview of many Christians that predisposes them to revel in distressing news? There just might be.
1. Bad news confirms bad eschatology
There are so many Christians whose whole end times scenario is tied up in the idea that the world is only going to get worse before Jesus returns. Despite the fact that crime statistics in the U.S. are actually really good, there’s a need to believe that it’s getting worse.
Even though there’s a positive fluctuation in reported crimes, thanks to 24-hour news stations, there’s a belief that things are just going down the drain. The apocalyptic views of so many Christians actually interprets misfortune as good news—because that means Jesus is coming back soon!
2. Bad news supports a belief in total depravity
The very first point in the five points of Calvinism is the belief in total depravity. This theology suggests that in his fallen state, man is unable is to love, obey, or please God. In the minds of many, this gets translated into the idea that, apart from Christ, mankind is only capable of wicked and corrupt behavior.
If this is what you believe about your fellow man, then you’ll find more comfort in the debauchery of unregenerate people than you’ll find in their altruism. I mean, why in the world would you promote confusing stories suggesting that atheists can be good and charitable?
3. Bad news emboldens an escapist view of Christianity
For many, Christianity is about little more than getting to heaven. To sweeten that deal, rapture theology adds the promise that, at any minute, all the followers of Christ are going to get caught up in the air with him and escape this time-bomb culture.
When your hope is found in the promise of elsewhere, it helps to constantly remind yourself of the horrors of here.
4. Bad news establishes who the bad people are
Sharing bad news can be a real good way to passively communicate to your friends, family, and followers who the bad people are. There’s nothing like an appropriately placed news story to help assert how terrible Muslims, liberals, conservatives, drug addicts, etc. are.
I find that the common thread in many stories Christians share is found in who’s demonized—as it reveals something about our confirmation biases.
5. Bad news reminds you that you’re a good person
There’s something about comparing ourselves with the darkest elements of humanity that makes us seem so bright, effervescent, and beautiful. No matter what kind of bad choices we make or how badly we feel about ourselves, seeing the worst that people are capable of gives us an emotional boost.
At least I’d never do that.
At least I’d never make that mistake.
There isn’t a lot of Christians who would say that Christianity is about being better than other people, but in our heart of hearts we want it to be true. And finding people more terrible than us can be a salve for the tortured soul.
Thy kingdom come
What if instead of focusing on getting to heaven, we focused on bringing as much of the kingdom into this world as possible? What if we looked for and promoted the best in people?
I’m not suggesting that we don’t face hard truths and share unsavory stories when its necessary, but maybe we do the world more of a service by not contributing to torrent of fear and distrust that threatens to engulf us all.
With all the stories there are in the world, the one’s we choose to tell say a lot about who we are.
*Crime statistics from FBI UCS Annual Crime Reports