Like any other group in society, Christians have spread content on social media informing their networks on topics such as the decline of their religion or the latest law that could threaten their religious freedom. However, at least two of the stories have been proven to be fakes.
According to Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today, two fake news stories made the rounds across the Internet. One of them included a story from "NBC" about a pastor arrested for refusing to conduct a same-sex marriage.
"Did you notice the extra .co on the end? That means it's not really NBC.com," Stetzer wrote. "Also, click around to the other stories, which literally have text that reads 'adfasf weoogsdre gawerags.'"
Stetzer added that if the story was true, it would be everywhere, including the nightly news. He contended that Christians would "look gullible" for failing to check the sources and the content.
"By the way, if you are a pastor you should already know that no one can make you officiate anything," Stetzer wrote. "In fact, you can refuse to officiate an interracial marriage. You'd be an idiot and a racist, but you wouldn't be arrested."
According to Stetzer, the second fake news story spreading around online was a lawsuit against Zondervan. A man supposedly sued Bible publishers for including verses on homosexuality that are offensive.
"This lawsuit could not be the result of the Supreme Court ruling (or President Obama's polices) because it happened in 2008, while President Bush was still in office and seven years before the gay marriage ruling," Stetzer wrote. "The reason you did not hear much about it then is because the courts quickly dismissed it as a ridiculous lawsuit."
However, Stetzer pointed out that the reality of the story "didn't stop Christians from sharing this story as if it were new and potentially dangerous."
"It is your job - yes, yours - to check the facts," Stetzer wrote. "Yes, these websites should do that as well, but most are more concerned with gaining your page view than growing your credibility."
For any Christian who inadvertently posted those fake stories on social media sites, Stetzer suggested that they can do three things. The first one was to "post a retraction."
"It's not that hard," Stetzer wrote. "It will sting a little bit because you'll have to admit you were wrong, but it's good for you. I promise."
Stetzer added that Christians should also alert their friends for other fake stories floating on the Internet. He declared that "integrity is important for the Christian," citing Proverbs 28:18 to back up his assertion.
"Do the right thing," Stetzer wrote. "Protect your friends from being tricked like you were."
The second thing Stetzer suggested for Christians who shared fake stories was to not make any excuses about posting such content or make the assertion that it could come true one day. He urged them to come clean to falling for a hoax and exercise some humility.
"You were deceived. It's ok to admit that," Stetzer wrote. "You don't have to try to cover your tracks and make some sort of lame excuse to make yourself look better. Have some humility, be willing to admit someone fooled you, and move on."
"Lying is wrong," Stetzer wrote. "Don't lie, even if you don't mean to. And make it right if you do."
In his closing thoughts, Stetzer contended that Christians are held to "a higher standard than even the journalist." He urged Christians not to share any stories online they cannot confirm to be true.
"We aren't protecting the reputation of an organization or a website, we bear the name of our King," Stetzer wrote. "If our friends and families cannot trust us with this type of news, many will not listen when we seek to share the good news of the gospel."