It is time to take back our narrative.
Return to the Truth.
Hooks are fine when you’re looking for a place to hang your coat, reel in a fish, or you’re a Captain chasing Peter Pan but hooks are disturbing and repulsive when it comes to people. We all yearn to feel safe enough to let our guard down, to be vulnerable, and to trust. One of the reasons we don’t is because of the abusive manipulation of information designed to be a hook to persuade us to feel a certain way, endorse a certain idea, person, or platform, or influence our behavior for the benefit of someone else. These constant attempts to hook us creates a culture where distrust, confusion, analysis paralysis, and fear flourish. It is the world system with all of its corruption that seeks to ensnare and hook people by exploiting human weakness all for the purpose of profit. Thankfully the ways of the world stand in complete contrast to the ways of God which are to strengthen us in our weakness, lead us into unifying truth, and set us free from all things that oppress or manipulate our free will. Jesus sets us free from the Matrix!
God doesn’t use hooks. He grabs hold of our attention by revealing who He really is with demonstrations of His love and kindness. Then He invites us to follow Him with no expectations, no hooks or hidden agendas, just an invitation. He invites us to know what He is really like, to experience His love deep in our hearts in a way that marks us for the rest of our lives. His invitation offers us the opportunity to learn how He does things, what is important to Him, His attitudes and conclusions about the world we live in, and how we can live our best lives. He invites us to be in His inner circle, to be known as His people, to belong, and to play a significant and valued role in His Kingdom. There is no hook, no hidden agenda, no levels, no wizard behind the curtain, no manipulation.
James 1:17 tells us that “Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject to change.”
He is Truth! He never changes and He is consistent from one generation to the next. According to the rules of textual criticism, which are agreed upon methods for evaluating the reliability of ancient texts, the Bible significantly outperforms every other ancient text in every category including historical texts taught as accepted fact in leading universities. When we read the Word of God, we are not checking a box, we are strengthening ourselves to stand against the deception that would serve the corrupt purposes of the world.
Many respected church leaders around the world have sounded an alarm this year calling believers to get in the Word. It has been a trumpet blast sounding from the watchmen on the wall alerting us to danger and instructing us how to prepare.
I believe our loving Father is pointing us to the solution for a battle we struggle to recognize or define. With so many people confused and unsure of what information to believe, and who to trust, His Word is as promised, ”a lamp to our feet” so we can see clearly where we are standing. It is also the promised “light for our paths” so we can make informed decisions and once again see clearly where we are going. Without His Truth illuminating and guiding us we are in real danger of being deceived. I am not a historian, but I believe the threat of deception is greater now than perhaps any other time in history.
The battle is raging right now over our allegiance, over our trust, over what we will allow to define truth, and over where we will look for validation. An all-out assault on truth is happening right now and some of the weapons being used are social media platforms, search engines like Google, YouTube, etc. For a greater understanding of what is happening, I suggest you watch: The Great Hack and Social Dilemma. Both documentaries are available on Netflix and explain in detail how these seemingly benign and even helpful tools are being used to manipulate how we think and influence our behavior.
To summarize, social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, What’s App, etc. as well as search engines like Google, and Firefox are “free” for us the user. But if we are not paying for the products we are using, we need to be aware that then we ARE the product. Facebook is worth over $700 billion and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is worth over 1 trillion dollars. These companies and those like them have successfully developed tools to monetize or make money off of our attention to them. You may wonder why this is a problem when we are all used to sifting through targeted ads trying to sell us products online. Sometimes they even seem helpful!
The problem is the way in which these products were engineered. Design engineers collaborated with behavior neuroscientists to learn how to create a product that is as addictive as slot machines in Vegas. The goal was to design the product in a way that the user remained oblivious to the way their behavior was slowly being manipulated. Artificial Intelligence uses complicated algorithms to predict which news articles, videos, and topics will not only grab our attention but take us down a rabbit hole and keep us engaged online without realizing how much time has passed. They base their predictions on the millions of data points collected and apply them each time you connect to the Internet. Everything we do online is measured, recorded, stored, and analyzed in the context of factors like time of day, who is nearby etc. The AI engineers have become experts on what keeps us engaged, where our biases lie, where we are undecided, and can be swayed. The power to influence behavior on this scale, without a person’s awareness, has never before been available. Today, it is available to the highest bidder, regardless of motive.
But this is not about screen time or data mining – this is about Truth. AI does not know Truth and cannot distinguish what is fact from what is a lie. That is not the purpose for which it is designed. The algorithms are designed to promote content that keeps us engaged for longer and longer periods of time. No oversight committee monitors and regulates whether or not this is good for children or for humanity as a whole. Speaking of truth, studies show that fake news is 6x more engaging than real news therefore it is pushed out and spreads faster than real news due to the algorithms designed to keep our attention. When we reduce our screen time, they look for a hook or a weakness to exploit in the individual that will prompt the person to re-engage. Fake and sensationalized news is personalized to our user profile and is pushed to us in a way that confirms our fears and manipulates our bias. Each individual is being shown a different version, different content, and ultimately presented with their own personalized reality determined by the algorithm.
When everyone has a personalized and different view of what is true then the truth starts to lose meaning and we become more polarized and divided. This can have real-world consequences because what we view as being true will determine how we behave. For example, in the southeast Asian country of Myanmar, when you purchase a phone, the salesperson loads Facebook and helps the person signup. In Myanmar, most people do not distinguish between Facebook and the Internet. This is their Internet; Facebook became their primary source for news and information. It also became an inexpensive way for a corrupt military to spread anti-Rohingya propaganda by exploiting the bias of the Buddhist against the Rohingya Muslims. The military used fake Facebook accounts pretending to be celebrities to spread fake news about the Rohingya. This led to an uprising in the Buddhist population against the Rohingya where 24,000 of them were killed, almost 200,000 were raped, beaten, or tortured and another 700,000 fled for their lives to other countries. The Rohingya genocide can be directly linked to fake news spread across the country by Facebook. What we determine to be true has very real consequences.
If we cannot agree on what is true, not just our opinion of the facts but the facts themselves, then we lose the ability to have a common premise and we become more polarized and divided. We must get our truth from somewhere that is untouched by the world. As Christians, we have the answer. We have the person of truth in Jesus; we have His Word which is truth to guide us, we have The Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. Beloved family of God, even knowing the powerful tools vying to purchase our loyalties, I am not discouraged nor afraid. I know there is nothing more powerful than Jesus and that when the enemy overplays his hand as he has here, our God raises up a standard that will be victorious.
Complacency is not an option. We must be intentional, and we must do this together. The Word belongs to all of us no matter what translation we favor or denomination of Christianity we call home. When we read the Word of God rather than our newsfeed or Instagram, we are all getting the same story even though how we respond is diverse. Through Jesus, and the Word, we are unified in truth and can value one another’s diverse expression.
Let’s do this together! The Bible talks in many places of the power of fasting especially when it is done in unity by all of God’s people. We are starting with a scheduled fast once a week, called Word Wednesdays, for the remainder of the year. My hope is that you will join and pass this message along. This is just a simple starting point!
What we fast- All social media including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, What’s app, Reddit, LinkedIn etc. as well as all news both televised and online.
What we do instead- We read the Word of God, whatever translation or form of the Bible you like to read. If you do not know where to start, begin with Paul’s letters, or the Gospels, or Psalms and Proverbs. The important part is to read and allow the Word to challenge your perspective and realign how you see God, others, and yourself.
Finally, pray. Pray and simply look for opportunities to live according to the Truth and love your neighbor.