Written by Mark Evilsizor
From his column Church Tech
Each week when my phone displays how much time I have spent with it, I am abashed, and I resolve not to use it so heavily in the week ahead. However, we are living in times of deep disruption: pandemic, job loss, civil unrest in pursuit of justice, tribal politics in an election year, and more. In times of such uncertainty, perhaps I’m searching for clarity as to how we got here and where we are going. From my social media connections, it looks like I am not alone. But in our search to understand what’s happening, I am mindful that we need to beware there are persons on the Internet whose intent is not to seek our betterment or to help us to navigate the future. Rather, they intentionally fabricate information to create uncertainty and fear, promote chaos, and influence others to further their own selfish motives.
I was taken aback recently when a couple of friends posted stories connecting Bill Gates to the “Mark of the Beast” in Revelation. When I looked at the source of the story, I found it to be a document in Google which could have been created by anyone. As an IT professional I have followed Bill Gates career, but this story was new to me, so I investigated. When I looked at the original sources, I learned that the theory was from a few articles with traces of facts cobbled together in a way to suggest Gates was behind the spread of COVID-19 in an attempt to microchip everyone on earth. My friends, in pursuit of trying to make sense of the disruption and lack of control caused by the virus, had latched onto this idea. Perhaps it was their way of weaving the chaos of events into a coherent thread.
Some may find such “conspiracy theories” interesting reading if for no other reason than that they illustrate how truth can be crazily warped, but contrived stories can and do cause real harm.
In a recent AP poll, only half of the respondents said they would definitely take the COVID-19 vaccine once available. Twenty percent said they definitely would not take it. A vaccine that thwarts the spread of COVID-19 is one of our best hopes to protect the lives and jobs of those around us (see Steven Burns article).
One of my wife’s good friends has a son who has battled cancer his entire life. Treatments damage his immune system so that he is unable to take vaccines of any kind. His life depends upon his school community being vaccinated so that measles and other preventable diseases do not infect and kill him. When we share ill-founded ideas that discourage others from doing the right thing, like being vaccinated, we endanger the lives of our neighbors.
How can we do better? Being a critical news and social media consumer is a great place to start. I wrote about this in 2016, and those principles still apply today. Additionally, while I value the questioning of authority, I also respect those with expertise. Persons who have dedicated their lives to understanding a subject merit being heard. And if the actions of their lives contribute to the welfare of others and increase our understanding of the world around us, then I will expect that their current work is of value and consistent with the life they have led.
One such person is Dr. Francis Collins. Dr. Collins spearheaded the Human Genome Project, and is currently director of the National Institutes of Health. He is also a Christian, and I would encourage you to read his testimony. Recently, Dr. Collins discussed current progress toward the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine, and he assured us that “no corners are going to be cut” in the process. Based on the principles above, I find his testimony credible and any article or meme that pops up on Facebook to the contrary, would bear a very heavy burden of proof to convince me otherwise.
Bill Gates has human flaws, as we all do, but he has dedicated the second half of his life to promoting health and education around the world by working to eliminate malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases that harm persons in developing nations. The solutions range from healthier toilets, to deployment of vaccines commonly available in the U.S. His life’s work informs my receptivity to ideas that suggest his intentions are inconsistent with his verifiable actions.
My pastor, a seminary graduate who has dedicated much of his life to understanding the Scriptures, recently preached about the hope found in Revelation. He provided a context for understanding the imagery and John’s writings. I rely on his expertise to help me understand this difficult book without disparaging leaders of today.
Our world is complex, and this year has been especially chaotic and disorienting. We are bombarded with messages from infinite sources with myriad motives. Certainly, we do not have time to research all of them, but I implore you, before sharing information, consider the credibility of what you are about to pass along, and the impact it may have on your friends, loved ones, and community.
Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.