The insidious sin of fear mongering

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t happens every day. It happens all the time.

Talk show hosts and political columnists are masters of it. It is their stock-in-trade.

Editors do it with headlines and titles of articles of posts designed to elicit something greater than interest.

It’s called fear-mongering.

Website managers, news editors and blog owners routinely use “click bait” to entice would-be readers to check out the linked article. The more websites that pop up–all vying for the same pot of advertising dollars–the greater the battle for online traffic. That means creative ways to capture web surfers attention and get a click-thru. As often as not the headline or link plays into some kind of fear or bias as a means of sinking an emotional hook into the reader. Click. More money for the site owner. Another day or night of worry for you.

It matters not whether the headline is misleading, whether the article is based on a half-truth or a whole lie. Somebody, and often a lot of somebodies, will email it, share it on Facebook, tweet it or pin it.

“Obama orders implanted microchip as part of Obamacare”

“Unaccompanied children are bringing new diseases over the border”

“Ebola could spread across the country”

“Conservatives want to eliminate Social Security”

“Is your child a psychopath?”

“You’re gonna lose your birth control! Your boss is in your bedroom!”

How many of these are based on junk-science, bad reporting, outright distortions, or intentionally incomplete “reporting”? I do not know, but if my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, it is a semi-truck load. A fleet of them.

Trafficking in fear is the only way some people can build an audience. Without this ability to “frenzy the masses” they would get no traffic, accrue no ad dollars, receive no salary, and have no job.

Fear-mongering is not trying to find “All The News That’s Fit To Print” or be “Fair and Balanced.” Its concern is, “What is the bottom line this month?”

With the competition for dollars and the straightforward desire to be the top dog, I can certainly understand why fear is used.

But, followers of Jesus need to ask themselves, “Should I be involved in fear-mongering?”

We live in a world that constantly reels from bad news, surprise revelations, wars, disease and heartbreak. There are more than enough sources of fear for the fearful. Almost any news story can bring sorry, disgust, outrage, or disbelief. That is pretty much the nature of this world.

Living in fear is not, however, what Christ has for His children. He promises peace, rather than fear. Fear is the domain of the Evil One; peace is the domain of the child of God.

Fear-mongering is an insidious sin when promulgated by children of the Prince of Peace. We who have been promised all comfort should not be in the business of troubling others with half-truths. We who have been given peace should not create unnecessary turmoil. We who have been given assurance should not traffic in doubt.

Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28, HCSB

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

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  • CJ

    You’re right. The media baits us, gives us just enough to make us sit up and take notice. But from there it is up to us to research. When I was younger one of the most valuable lessons my daddy taught me was about church. I’d listen to the preacher and come away terrified after a Hell Fire and Brimestone sermon, I just knew I could never live up to Gods expectations of me and I was doomed to Hell. He taught me when the sermon focused on one piece of scripture or one verse I was to go back to the beginning of the chapter read forward then way past to get the real meaning of that one verse because one verse can be turned inside and out. He told me to find a church were the preacher kept the scripture his sermon is based on in context. That’s what I always loved about your sermons Marty you never took scripture and turned it into a fear based message. I’ve tried to apply this lesson in other parts of my life such as what the media feeds the masses in the form of little tid bits just to whip up a frenzy and sale advertising space. When I read a story I go further to research for myself all I can get on the matter and in most cases the truth is far less dramatic than the headlines. In the case of the shared headline that I feel inspired this blog other than what is available in the form of pictures of the dead and dying from a virus that is unrelenting and up to 90% deadly there is nothing comforting or less dramatic on this subject. I will never understand the reasoning in bringing Ebola patients here, never. It makes no sense to me at all. No man is perfect, no cautions are perfect, no procedures are perfect but that’s just my opinion which I’m entitled to just as you are to yours. You have always inspired me in your matter-a-fact confidence and your faith in God. I am thankful that the Duren family and the Burk/Price families crossed paths in this life, y’all have and will continue to be a blessing to us.

    • CJ-
      Y’all can’t get rid of us. I won’t ever give my chainsaw back! :^)

      Absolutely we can have different opinions. The reason I dropped out of our discussion yesterday is I saw no reason to continue arguing about who was right. I’m not fearful of Ebola spreading and I don’t think you should be either. We as children of God have a wealth of verses from scripture encouraging us not to fear regardless of our circumstances.

      As to the timing of this post, I did not write it in response to you. That timing was totally arbitrary from my point of view. This post had been in my mind for a while. If you want a specific person the one I had been thinking about the most was Todd Starnes. I think he does a lot of what I talk about above, but since the situation is more broad I didn’t name him (or any other person). I am sorry it came across as responding to you in a passive-aggressive way.

    • martyduren

      Well, CJ, I just typed out a long, full response that got eaten by the web monster.

      To summarize: It is fine that we have differing points of view. I left our conversation yesterday on Facebook because I didn’t feel like arguing the point. My only purpose was to encourage you not to be fearful. It wasn’t about winning a debate.

      As to the purpose of this post, I did not write it because of our discussion. This post had already been in my mind for a while. Specifically, I was thinking a popular Fox News personality who is guilty of some of the things mentioned, not you. I’m sorry that it came across as a passive-aggressive response to our exchange.

    • Marty – breath a sigh of relief from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christwire

      Christwire is a satirical website that publishes blog-style articles that highlight excesses of American Christian conservatives along with obscure weather reportage, inaccurate and unfactual warnings about such things as politicians and video games, new vernacular, intense focus on various communities, and numerous parenting and lifestyle tips.[1][2][3][4]

      Like similar satirical websites, Christwire’s stories have often erroneously been taken at face value

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