Love Your Neighbor—Even Online

In a complex information landscape filled with misinformation, how do we practice discernment, seek truth, and love our online neighbor as Jesus does? A recent Bethel Seminary podcast provides some tools for anyone who wants to think more critically about consuming information.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

June 29, 2021 | 12:30 p.m.

Whole & Holy

Bethel Seminary’s new podcast features trustworthy voices discussing larger issues of interest to the church.


“People have this misconception about librarians,” says Rachel Wightman, a recent guest on Bethel Seminary’s podcast “Whole & Holy” and a career librarian. “They think we just read all day and shush noisy people.” But a conversation with Wightman reveals much more: a deep commitment to truth-seeking and a concern for teaching people the tools to navigate today’s information landscape with critical thinking and discernment. Wightman, who serves as associate director of Concordia University Library in St. Paul, brought her research and expertise to the seminary’s podcast episode “Combatting Misinformation” on June 4, 2021, and there were plenty of takeaways for ministry leaders and others interested in the pursuit of truth in today’s information landscape.

For the past 15 years, Wightman has taught college students how to find and evaluate information as part of their course of study. In helping them learn practical skills for day-to-day engagement with the flood of information available for consumption, Wightman began to think more deeply about the substantial power of information to determine a person’s worldview. “The information we consume profoundly impacts how we see the world,” she explains. As she observed misinformation fueling increasing divisiveness in the current culture, Wightman began to intentionally “reflect on faith and how that shows up in online spaces,” she says.

In “Combatting Misinformation,” Wightman shared some of her research in an interview with Peter T. Vogt, Bethel Seminary dean. “Misinformation was pervasive even before the internet,” she told listeners. “But in the last 25 years, the internet has changed information access.” Online search tools are not designed to provide the best information, and people frequently consume misinformation or disinformation without the proper skills to evaluate it. Wightman defined misinformation as incorrect information like a reporting error, whereas disinformation is intentionally incorrect, such as altering a video. She noted that examples of misinformation come from both sides of political ideology, and engagement around that information has reflected increasing levels of attack and vitriol, even among Christians.

How can we address misinformation—as consumers of information, truth-seekers, and leaders in ministry or the marketplace? Wightman has some suggestions:

  • Name the problem. Make space for the discussion of misinformation and how it impacts our thinking and online engagement.
  • Talk about it. Consider your goals as you interact with information online. Are you seeking truth or just seeking information that supports your perspective? Are you listening to others in truth and love, or just seeking to change their minds?
  • Invite the Holy Spirit into online interactions. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Pray to know when to engage and when to wait. Most important, pray for the ability to see others online as the neighbors Jesus commands us to love. “Are we willing to love our online neighbors?” Wightman asks. 

Those who are most successful in avoiding polarization and divisiveness approach the topic of misinformation from the perspective of truth-seeking and peacemaking, says Wightman. “They’re not out to change people’s minds, but to engage others in truth and love,” she explains. “We should always be asking ourselves how we can speak truth with kindness, and how we can hold space for others as people that God loves.”

Combatting misinformation is more than just a podcast episode for “Whole & Holy.” It’s been part of the mission of Bethel Seminary’s podcast from the start. “There are so many voices these days,” says Vogt. “How do you know who’s telling the truth? We aim to be a brand that pastors and ministry leaders recognize as trustworthy and biblically based, bringing a grounded, Christian perspective to the discussion.” The podcast benefits from its roots in the firm foundation of Bethel Seminary—which has emphasized biblical and theological training, spiritual and personal formation, and transformational leadership for years.



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