Christians and Viral Stories: A Caution


Photo courtesy of Lakewood Church

Last night we had a prayer service at our church for Houston. When I got there, my friend Anna said, “You know we are praying for Houston tonight, right?” However, what I heard her say was, “You know we are praying for Osteen tonight, right?”

We laughed… but, yes. I prayed for him too.

I do not agree with much of what he preaches, but I still do not understand why some Christians will share information that attempts to discredit other Christians. By calling out Christians as hypocrites, especially in a false news story, you damage the good that other Christians are trying to do.

Common sense should have told many people that there was much more to the story than a big-time Pastor not opening up his church doors to people in need. If people would have paused for a moment, instead of immediately clicking “share”, perhaps people would have logically considered other reasons the church may not have been immediately opened as a shelter – instead of jumping on the “he’s such a hypocrite” train.

A rule of thumb I use for any viral news thread… wait 24 hours before sharing – if it is even worth sharing by that point. I check the credibility of the sources, consider their motives, and I do my best to cross-reference the information. This gives time for the real story to come out and facts that may have been missed, skipped, or altogether left out of “news” stories in an attempt to bash or discredit someone.

The reality in this situation is:

  1. With a history of their building flooding, Lakewood had online services on Sundayand cancelled classes all weekend, so as not to endanger people with the flooding that was expected to affect their building and the safety of people traveling to and from the church.
  2. Lakewood had flood damage. How can you house people when the building may not be accessible or safe?
  3. By the time the story went viral, Lakewood had not yet been asked to provide shelter from the City of Houston. Rather, they were asked to point people to other shelters that were smaller and more manageable.
  4. Lakewood had already partnered with Samaritan’s Purse to do what they could to help flood victims.
  5. As soon as they were asked by the City of Houston, Lakewood opened up as an emergency shelter.

Friends, let’s be cautious of viral news stories and how we share them. Let’s give a little more time for the stories to flush out and the truth to be told. Often times a story will end very differently than where the story began.