Monday, February 26, 2024

A Post-Truth World

We left off last week talking about the truth of Christianity, in companionship with its grace. This was one of the criticisms leveled at the "He gets us" ads on television - that they were too much grace/acceptance and not enough Gospel truth. 

And I said that living in a post-truth world, it's...complicated. The Gospel truth is complicated today in ways that it wasn't as complicated previously. 

I guess the place to start is to talk about what I mean when I say that the world today is post-truth. 

Here's what I mean: 

Our greatest fights today are over what truth actually is. What "the" truth is. We are wrestling with a culture that is hesitant to definitively define anything, where truth is whatever you claim it to be, and where authorities are questioned in a way that they weren't for much of human history. 

If you look at the headlines, especially in politics, you'll see that we aren't a people who talk about policy and common good any more; we're too busy trying to find a starting point for conversation. And that starting point is truth. 

See, we can't talk about anything, as human beings, unless we have a mutual, agreed-upon starting point for the conversation. Want to talk politics? Maybe you think it's easy to start by saying that Joe Biden is the current president. But then come the accusations that the elections were stolen, our democracy is a sham, and his presidency is illegitimate. We can't have a conversation about politics if we do not fundamentally agree that the process is trustworthy - i.e. a true process. 

Want to have a conversation about gender roles or the worth of a woman in the marketplace (that women should receive the same pay as men for the same work, let's say)? Well, we can't. Because we first have to define what a "woman" is and our current culture doesn't have a definitive definition. Rather, everyone is allowed to define for themselves what being a man or a woman means to them and the rest of the world is expected to go along with it. So we have biological males who believe the "truth" is that they are women (and biological women who believe the "truth" is that they are men), and we can't have a conversation about women in the workplace because there's no agreement on what a woman is. 

We hear a lot about minorities, but who is a minority? How does one become a minority? Is it statistical? Is it social? You may say the minority is the group whose power is taken away by another group or is the group that is the victim of oppression by another group, but...that's all perspective. There are many folk who are seen as the majority by others who feel like the minority because of the way the perceived minority treats them. So who's right? In a post-truth world, they both are. 

Language is used as a weapon here. Whoever shouts the loudest usually wins. If you can get the most voices in your side, then your side must be "truth." Truth, as a concept, has become a matter of popular opinion - whatever most persons buy into is the "truth" that we must live by. 

Here's another recent example: (and yes, I know I'm ruffling feathers. Truth does that) In 2020 when the pandemic was newly upon us, the experts in the medical field - not the political talking heads, although they agreed, but the real experts - said that research showed that cloth masks would be ineffective in limiting the spread of the virus. There was massive public outcry because most of us felt like we needed to do something besides just sit idly by and wait for our grandmothers to die, so after a ton of pushback from the public, they changed the message - wearing a mask will help. The science didn't change, but the "truth" changed somehow. Those who held onto the science, the documented research and decades upon decades of evidence were called conspiracy theorists, at best; at worst, they were told they were selfish and hated everyone else's grandmothers and that the deaths were their fault. Language was being used to force compliance with an asserted, but not proven, "truth." (For what it's worth, more studies came out a year or so ago showing, again, that our masks did not make a difference and were ineffective, but during the most recent surge, there were still many crying out for new mask mandates...and the news barely covered the new reports showing their ineffectiveness.) 

But that's where we're at - truth is whatever the masses say it is. No longer are we a people who listen to reason, who look at the evidence, who believe what we see, who believe those who have invested their lives in things we haven't even thought about before; we are a people coerced by the noise into compliance, and truth has become a construct, not a given. 

So what does that do to the Gospel? 

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