Fake News (Newspaper article)

This week, Facebook launched a UK newspaper campaign to help people spot false news stories in the run-up to the general election. Last month, Google added a 'fact check' feature to search results. It is all part of an effort to clamp down on the spread of 'fake news', a problem which has snowballed with the rise of social media.

Yet while we are quick to jump on others who are less than completely truthful, we are often less stringent with ourselves. An advert has appeared in this very paper beginning 'We all bend the truth now and then' - and none of us could argue against that statement.

Some will respond 'so what? Everybody exaggerates a story or tells a little white lie occasionally. As long as it doesn't hurt anybody, it's not a big deal'. But perhaps the following illustration will help show why our failure to always tell the truth should worry us more than it does.

In the Harry Potter books, those who are evil are associated with snakes. Evil characters can speak parseltongue - the language of snakes. And so when Harry's friends find out that he can speak it too, they begin to worry - because to speak the language of snakes is to speak the language of the enemy.

The Bible tells us that we too have an enemy. And to lie, twist the truth, tell half-truths, exaggerate or gossip is to speak his language. Jesus said of Satan 'When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies'. In contrast, God is the 'God of truth'. The reason there is suffering and death in the world is because men and women listened to the lies of Satan rather than the truth of God.

There are only two sides - and how you use your tongue (or pen or keyboard) will show which one you are on. The frightening truth is that by nature we are all on the devil's side. No-one has to teach us to lie or shift the blame - the language of the serpent is our mother tongue.

The Bible makes it clear that liars, promise-breakers and gossips won't get into Heaven. But Jesus came into a world of lies and said: 'Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life'.

Published in Stranraer & Wigtownshire Free Press, 11th May 2017

Stranraer FC: Chaplaincy update

At 17 days old, Willow made it in time for Stranraer's last home game of the season!

At 17 days old, Willow made it in time for Stranraer's last home game of the season!

It's been a varied few days on the Stranraer FC chaplaincy front. Saturday saw the team defeat East Fife 2-1 to finish 7th in the league - a very respectable finish given that they had been bottom of the table at Christmas. A few hours after the game, it was time for the annual awards dinner. As chaplain, I am asked to say grace before the meal each year. The dinner is a great opportunity to chat to the players, committee and others involved with the club.

Then yesterday I went to Paisley for a Regional Training Day on the subject of sudden bereavement. It was a hard-hitting day, led by Sports Chaplaincy UK CEO Warren Evans, focusing on supporting those who lose children, but also touching on other sudden bereavements such as suicide.

Meeting up with other chaplains is always a blessing

Meeting up with other chaplains is always a blessing

After having lunch together, we heard an update on the growth, needs and opportunities of chaplaincy in the UK, and were also able to hear a bit about how our fellow chaplains have been getting on.

The BBC featured a timely interview with Kilmarnock's Kris Boyd yesterday as part of Mental Health Awareness Week where he spoke about his brother's suicide last year. PFA Scotland figures show that nearly two thirds of footballers in Scotland have experienced mental health problems or know a team-mate who has. As last week's news about Everton's Aaron Lennon highlights, someone can seem to have it all from the outside but still be in pain inside. Training days like this aim to leave chaplains better equipped to support anyone involved in a football club who is going through a tough time.

Stephen Steele, club chaplain to Stranraer FC