If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen this headline (or variations of it) going around: “Pastor trying to prove how Jesus walked on water gets eaten by crocodile.” But do you believe it?
It’s not uncommon for these types of urban legends to be passed around, especially on satire sites, but this time around it’s being picked up by a variety of outlets, including the Daily Mail and AOL. The Independent had an article as well, but it appears to have been deleted.
Here are some reasons we should be skeptical of this account:
- All media reports appear to point to the same source, a Nigerian news site that itself cites The Herald Zimbabwe. But the story appears nowhere on The Herald’s website. Furthermore, all the articles are carefully worded to say “reports say a pastor…”
- Sources that are known to be credible and reliable, such as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, haven’t mentioned this story. When a news story is big enough and generates enough interest, these news agencies will often verify and report it, too. We’ve seen nothing like that so far.
- A search for the name of Pastor Mthethwa only returns results for this story. I can’t find a single reference to a man of god named Jonathan Mthethwa anywhere online. Similarly, a search for his church — Saint of The Last Days — returns only results associated with this news story.
- There isn’t a single picture or video associated with this account. The reports point to eyewitnesses’ comments, but there is no way to verify that these people even exist (a search for alleged eyewitness and church member Deacon Nkosi turned up no results). None of them thought the event was worthy of a quick photo, it seems. Are we really supposed to believe that this pastor planned for a successful walk on water and no one was prepared to capture it on camera or video?
- The last reason we should be skeptical: common sense. Do you really think a pastor would perform a demonstration like this, knowing he would inevitably fail (and humiliate himself and lose credibility among his flock in the process)? Do you think he would do this in the well-known Crocodile River? Or is it more likely that someone created a potentially viral story to generate ad revenue? You be the judge.
Stay skeptical, my friends!