My latest for the Longview News-Journal
Over the past few years, a new phrase has entered the American lexicon: “fake news.” This term is defined as any news that reported intentionally as false, or someone chooses not to believe.
We now live in a world of skeptics: satire and fake news plague our social media and news reports. People share fake stories and misleading information all the time. There are entire websites such, as Snopes.com and factorfiction.com, devoted to debunking popular memes, photos, or news stories.
Why do people share these unverified stories so quickly and readily on social media? The simple answer is that want to be right. They want to prove their point without having to listen to the other side, without having to consider that maybe (just maybe) they might be wrong. The internet is excellent for this. We have created echo chambers to confirm what we already believe. We return to the same sources of information to confirm our biases.
If we are so quick to do so with news stories, are Christians doing the same thing with the Bible? Are we just returning to the Bible to reinforce what we already believe about God, Jesus the Christ, the movement of the Spirit, etc.? I am not advocating that having constant faith is a bad thing, but we need to consider that our positions may be changing or that we have questions about the faith we hold so dear.
The Bible tells us that after the resurrection Jesus went to the disciples. They were amazed he had come, but Thomas was not with them. Upon hearing the news of the resurrected Christ, Thomas expressed doubt that the event had even taken place.
Thomas gets a bad rap in this text. He is forever known as the doubter. We forget that he was faithful and theologically alert in previous chapters of the gospel of John. No, that doesn’t matter. We treat Thomas like a basketball player entrusted with the game-winning shot to defeat the archrivals and win the championship. But Thomas just dribbles out of bounds as time expires.
Poor Thomas. He’s the eternal punching bag of Christians so we can try to feel superior. We puff out our chests and say we wouldn’t dare falter at the news of the risen Christ; we wouldn’t dare deny the Messiah after the Resurrection. Not us — no way.
No one ever mentions the disciples after the crucifixion were hiding because of the attention their faith brought them, but we remember Thomas. Thomas was not wrong for doubting, but this is. Unfortunately, it’s the tidbit people pull out.
Too many Christians focus on the ways not to be Thomas, but I believe this is the wrong avenue to take with regards to doubt. I don’t think Thomas should be our punching bag or the bad guy of the story. Doubting, questioning, and clarifying our faith is a natural process.
All of our lives, we are trying to connect our faith to the world around us. We begin to see how Biblical principles and teachings line up with what we know to be true. But there are times when things do not fit together as well as we would like; things just do not make sense.
I have worked with some of the most profound theological thinkers: middle school students. These students are trying to make sense of the world. They are critical of what has been taught to them in school and the church. This is a wonderful process to begin to establish roots of faith and theological thinking. They ask important questions like, “If Adam and Eve were the only people on Earth, then where did Cain’s wife come from?” and, “Is it OK not to believe that God created the world in six, 24-hour days?” What a beautiful step in faith these students take as they try to find what they believe and, more importantly, why they believe.
While faith is our foundation in our theology, Thomas’ story, particularly at the end of the gospel of John, sets up for us the notion that we all are Thomas.
At the core of the Thomas story is the understanding of faith; more specifically believing and seeing, faith and doubt. Questioning is not unfaithfulness. Doubting is not unfaithfulness. If anything, it is the most faithful thing you could do, because you are genuinely trying to ascertain what you know and begin to establish a faith that can withstand the storms of life.