| Academia Nomad
PORT MORESBY - Do pastors, clergymen and religious authorities enjoy too much respect in Papua New Guinea?
Disclaimer: I’m a Christian. Baptised by a Four Square pastor. I once read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. And I completely read the New Testament twice.
That’s to say I’m not an atheist even though I’m about to rant like an atheist.
I left three WhatsApp groups. Everyone in those WhatsApp groups was a Christian. In fact I was added to those groups because I was a Christian.
I left because I couldn’t stand the pastors.
I’m not talking about differences in opinion. I do not have a problem with that.
I’m talking about pastors trying to become scientists. And pastors sharing fake news news.
But what is fake news?
Fake news is basically content – videos, documentaries, articles etc - that are not true, misleading, misinterpreted or even outdated.
A more academic definition includes deliberate sharing of fake content with the intention to mislead the public for a specific purpose.
For instance, a candidate’s campaign team intentionally running untrue claims to discredit the opponent.
But for our shake, let’s stick to a simple definition stated earlier. Anything that’s not true.
For the most part during my time in these groups, I tried to make sense with the members. For instance, when it came to debates on Covid-19, I told them not to trust YouTube videos.
YouTube videos are not vetted. You can put whatever the hell you want on YouTube.
It’s the same with Facebook posts, or online articles. Even news outlets like CNN or Fox news are not reliable sources.
If you want ‘relatively’ reliable content, go to top peer-reviewed journals. For scientific content, for instance, go to top five scientific journals of the world. And read what is been written about the topic you’re interested in.
Why these journals?
Because unlike Facebook posts, these articles are put through rigorous scrutiny by experts in the field that the article addresses.
It’s not the best, but it’s better than a YouTube video. Just because someone is a ‘doctor’ or a ‘scientist’ doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth on YouTube.
They must publish their ideas in a scientific journal, where their peers can scrutinise claims, test evidence and verify sources.
This goes both ways: for pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine. Or any other topic.
So why did I take offence with the pastors?
In PNG and the Christian community, pastors are held in high regard. There’s respect for pastors.
An educated man can sit in a church for two hours and listen to a pastor, without a degree, share his interpretation of the scriptures and not challenge him.
That respect is accorded to the office the pastor occupies, not accorded to the pastor’s education or expertise.
In the groups I was part of, there were many materials shared: some true, others fake.
But I took the most offence when the articles were shared by pastors.
For instance, a pastor shared a photo of a coin getting stuck on the arm of someone who was vaccinated.
And this was shared by one of the so called ‘fathers of the nation’. A senior pastor whose name, if I mentioned it here, most, if not all, Papua New Guineans would know.
Why is this fake?
A 20 toea coin will stick to your arm after you do a bit of work even if you’re not vaccinated.
More recently, the same pastor shared a Facebook post going viral at the time.
It said that Australian soldiers were locking up PNG Defence Force ammunition nationwide, and questioned why that was happening.
I didn’t see the Facebook post until the pastor shared it in the WhatsApp group, but as soon as I saw it, I knew it was fake.
Again, what bothered me was the fact that this was a very senior pastor, respected in PNG, misleading the people.
If God is truth, and if His word is the Truth, why do pastors find it easy to share fake news?
If they are misled by fake news to the extent they believe it, what does that say about their interpretation of the Bible? Do they casually interpret the scriptures like they do with the fake news?
Similar instances happened in the other two groups I was part of and I left all.
And just yesterday I came across a street preacher who was conducting an awareness about 5G, vaccination and mark of the beast or 666.
I joined the conversation and told the guy that what he was saying wasn’t true.
One of the women came to his defence and said I shouldn’t say that because the street preacher was ‘wok man blo god’ (servant of god).
It reminded me of the pastors in the WhatsApp groups: I hardly saw anyone challenging the fake content the pastors were sharing.
So it made me wonder: are pastors and clergy in PNG enjoying too much respect?
I think they are. People look upon them with respect as servants of god (I’m intentionally using small g for god because I don’t think they represent the God with the capital G when they start talking science).
I think Papua New Guineans should begin to challenge their pastors, and even tell them to shut the hell up when they talk about science.
Unless they are medical science graduates turned pastors, or have a degree in the relevant area they are talking about. There’s too much reverence for pastors, and some are abusing it.
I understand opinions will be divided over issues like vaccine, but those in religious authority, who are respected, cannot use their biased opinions to mislead people.
Pastors are respected because they are supposed to preach the Gospel. They should not be respected for their opinions on science. They aren’t scientists.
Either preach the Gospel, or go back to FODE [flexible open and distance education], matriculate, and go to UPNG and take up science.
So the next time your pastors begin talking about subject matter that you know are untrue, or subject matter that you know the pastor has no knowledge of, you can tell them to shut up.
You won’t lose your salvation if you do.
I know of pastors who are well informed because they read a lot, but talk less.
And I know of pastors who know the Bible well, and they stick to it.
Then there are those who talk about everything: prophecies to sharing fake content.
I have respect for the first two. I have lost respect for the pastors in the third category.
And I offer no apologies.