Each of us needs to be able to identify propaganda when we see it or hear it. Perhaps more importantly, we must recognize that our children have been, at least to some extent, educated in propaganda and trained to accept certain forms of propaganda through entertainment and media. The Epoch Times recently ran an article entitled, Teaching Children to Recognize Propaganda, in which Annie Holmquist writes, “Given the accelerated rate of deception in society, it now seems clear that schools indeed didn’t prepare children to recognize propaganda; instead, they were the ones that fed propaganda to children hook, line, and sinker.”
It’s likely that most educators did so unknowingly, trusting both the curriculum and the training they received to the same extent that most parents trusted the schools to which they were sending their children. It’s lamentable that many are victims of propaganda but even more so that the many were neither taught to think critically nor to be discerning. Where we once held to a foundation of absolute truth which kept our moral compass aligned and our thinking grounded, many now believe that truth is relative at best, some even believing that there is no truth, and that there is no morality except that which makes one feel good. Such undermining and erosion leaves a nation, society, church, and culture vulnerable to attack and ripe for destruction.
The Bible says as much in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” It’s obvious from the whole of the verse that the “vision” spoken of here is the absolute truth of God’s Word. If we are willing and obedient to align with truth—holding it and protecting it—we are blessed and happy. If we refuse and rebel against that which God has stated as truth and commanded to do, we will perish. Many churches (and parents) have taught their children to be moral, but how many have taught their children, teens, and young adults how to defend the truth (apologetics) and how to protect their minds from falsehood by holding the truth as a precious treasure to obey and proclaim, protecting it in their own minds as well as the mind of society (to “keep” means to protect and guard)?
Before we look at ways to protect oneself and one’s children from propaganda, it’s important to define what propaganda is. According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, propaganda is “ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.” I would include name-calling in the area of ideas. Using name-calling as a means of propaganda works to both shame the opposition into silence and to attempt to steal the opposition’s credibility, which helps to keep both sides of an issue from being presented. After all, who wants to either be accused of or listen to a deplorable, dreg of society, or any number of –phobes (homophobe, Islamophobe, etc)?
How do we help our children (and ourselves) to identify falsehood and protect ourselves from propaganda coming from the Left and the Right? How do we prepare ourselves to cling to truth? I can think of a few ways.
First, build the rare art of critical thinking in your children by helping them to examine both sides of an argument. Whether the issue is a stolen election; the safety or efficacy of the COVID vaccine, masks or lockdowns; communism vs. capitalism; social justice; critical race theory (CRT); evolution vs. creationism, the “green new deal;” even name-calling or a host of other issues that are pressed upon us these days; research both sides, THINK, don’t forget common sense, and don’t just write someone off because of their political party, what others are saying, or from fear. As Annie Holmquist wrote, “Knowing what the opposition is saying will strengthen your own arguments and make it more difficult for people to accuse you or your children of being narrow-minded.”
Second, when I was in school we were taught to look for logical fallacies, for they seemingly abound everywhere and are used by many. It’s important to recognize bad reasoning both so we are not easily led astray and so that we can build better and stronger arguments in support of truth. A great and fun resource for this is one that we have used with our own children—The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn. Be warned, after they have learned these skills you are likely to hear “fallacy!” or “straw man!” or some other term thrown out in response to bad reasoning. (You’ll be glad of it!)
Third, know, teach your children about, and learn from true history! Explore past efforts of communism/socialism around the world and in your own country. Was President Trump correct in stating, “From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure;” and “Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems?” Or was it propaganda? Look at China both pre-CCP (Chinese Communist Party), during the beginnings of the CCP takeover, and post-CCP; how did the individual citizens fare during these eras in China? When looking at America’s history we cannot deny that there are stains and blemishes in it; but look also at the much good from our history and the trending paths that were being lived out. To take one portion of any history and put it under a microscope, divorcing it from other events, gives a skewed and propagandized view.
Fourth, encourage your children to read books that glean wisdom from ages past. Give them books that lay down a foundation of traditional healthy moral values and that build strong character. By filling their heart and mind with truth they are more likely to recognize and reject propaganda. A few of my family’s favorites are books (and audio dramas of those books) from Lamplighter Publishing, R.M. Ballantyne for boys, and Isabella Alden (Pansy) for girls.
Finally and foremost, recognize the Bible as the foundation of ALL truth. Dennis F. Kinlaw wrote, “The Scriptures say that God is the source of all truth. If we turn away from truth, we will end in illusion or delusion because only truth is reality. When we walk away from truth, we lose reality and are destroyed by delusion.” The whole of the Bible is instructive in truth and wisdom (putting truth into practice). The Proverbs particularly speaks to the whole of life in practical terms. There are thirty-one chapters in the book of Proverbs and many of our months have thirty-one days. My youngest daughter has been reading through the book of Proverbs each month for some time now, in addition to her other Bible reading. This, with prayer, can help us to recognize and combat propaganda.
Bible study helps to build discernment. Humbling oneself and prayer and seeking God’s face adds to one’s strength, helping us to recognize and dismiss propaganda. Repentance is the highest form of humility and puts us in a position to become even more discerning.
Oh Lord, in a world filled with propaganda and deception help us to see YOU—the Way, the Truth, and the Life. May we allow Your Word to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. For Your glory help us to be beacons of truth, helping others to side-step Satan’s deceptions by Your grace. Amen.