Worth Reading - 7/21

1. Discernment bloggers or Watchblogs claim to be performing a service for Christ by revealing the bad theology in others, but sometimes their attitudes and methods make one wonder if they actually are Christian. Here is Tim Challies on the phenomenon of the discernment blogs:

Among the realities of this digital world is a whole class of web sites known as discernment blogs or watchblogs. These are sites ostensibly dedicated to keeping out a watchful eye for conflict and heresy. Some take a broad view, tracking a wide range of personalities and controversies; others take a much narrower view, tracking a single theological issue, ministry, or person. There have been times over the years that I have run afoul of discernment bloggers. On a few occasions I have said something, or neglected to say something, that has caused them to write an article about me. But then several weeks ago I wrote something that brought about an explosive reaction. Suddenly these bloggers were picking apart the meaning of my every word, taking stock of my deepest motives, and even writing with confidence about the state of my finances. Some of their commenters were crying out for people to hack my site and destroy it. A few were expressing themselves in profanity and threats of physical violence. It was intimidating, but also very clarifying.

I have sometimes warned about these discernment bloggers that are now all over the Internet, but somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve reserved a place for them. I’ve allowed myself to believe that they may serve a helpful purpose, that even while they go too far at times, a lot of their information is helpful. I’ve occasionally found myself visiting some of the sites, reading their articles, and justifying it all in my mind. After all, it is important that I know the truth about Christian leaders and their ministries, isn’t it?
If you want to disrupt a beautifully harmonious dinner party, all you have to do is bring up the radioactive issue of immigration. There might not be a more heated political topic in contemporary American life.

And yet pastors, by virtue of the changing diversity of their congregations and their role as community leaders, can’t afford to avoid the subject if we are to be faithful ministers of the gospel. Not only are we inundated with opinions from our parishioners, we’re forced to wrestle with real-world implications of immigration policy, whether our churches are located in Arizona or Alaska.

A sampling of political opinion, on all sides of the issue, reflects a failure on the part of many evangelicals to articulate a gospel-centered approach both to immigration policy and to immigrants themselves. A recent survey from the Pew Forum on Faith and Public Life suggests that just 12 percent of white evangelicals see this issue primarily through the lens of their faith. We think this presents a golden opportunity for pastors to reframe the debate from a missiological standpoint.

Pastors’ wariness to discuss the issue may stem from the politically charged nature of the national dialogue on immigration, or from the fear that by addressing the issue they will inevitably offend some in their congregation, putting attendance, tithes, and offerings at risk. We suspect that others avoid the issue, though, because—in a U.S. context where nearly a third of immigrants are present unlawfully—they see a paradox between the repeated biblical commands to welcome and love immigrants and the equally biblical commands to be subject to the governing authorities. Unsure of how to reconcile these seemingly conflicting commands, some pastors just avoid the issue altogether.

3. Five tips for spotting and debunking fake internet news. Please think before you share:

This week, the stock market was hoodwinked by a story, posted at Bloomberg.market, that Twitter was about to be sold. The story looked like every other story posted by Bloomberg News, and Twitter’s price began to soar.

But the story was fake, filled with misspellings and other errors, and before long Twitter’s price began to settle down.

Among other recent fake stories was this shocker, allegedly from NBC News: “Christian Pastor in Vermont Sentenced to One Year in Prison After Refusing to Marry Gay Couple.”

Only the story wasn’t from NBC. It was from NBC.com.co—a fake website, filled with ads, and hosted on an overseas website.

“We are all too gullible,” warned my friend, Ed Stetzer, this week.

Hoax stories like these are likely to become more common as hoaxers become more sophisticated, warned Dan Gillmor, a journalism professor at Arizona State who specializes in digital media.

4. Bias is a powerful thing. Those that have watch cultural conversations about divisive topics like abortion note that typically those opposed to abortion are asked "hard questions" about their positions, but most abortion supporters get a free pass. The reality is that both sides have important questions to answer. Here is Aaron Earl's list of 11 questions he thinks abortion supporters should have to answer:

Every time one pro-life politician has made a controversial statement, all others are asked by the media to respond. Now that Planned Parenthood is under fire for the undercover video discussing the selling of fetal organs, should the tables not be turned?

Yet, even with the 2016 presidential campaign already in full swing, I’ve yet to see pro-choice politicians be regularly hounded by reporters with questions related to their stance on abortion.

Why has Hillary Clinton not faced a barrage of questions about her stance on Planned Parenthood? It’s almost as if these reporters only consider one side of the debate controversial.