We live in a post-truth world. And the crazy part is, what I just said doesn’t need to be true, you just need to believe it. Consider any squabble about racism, sexuality, social security payments, character assessments of a rich actor, taxing the billionaire, and educational strategies for local schools… If the rhetoric is persuasive enough, we don’t care if it’s true, we’ll run with it.
I’m not going to try to convince you what I’m saying right now is objectively true. Consider the facts for yourself.
Can you handle the truth?
In the 1992 film A Few Good Men, Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), a US military lawyer, seeks to defend two US marines from being charged with murdering another marine. There’s that powerful scene where the colonel (Jack Nicholson) is being drilled in the courtroom by the young lawyer on whether he ordered the code red. The lawyer says forthrightly, ‘It’s the truth!’ The colonel bellows out with anger, ‘You can’t handle the truth!’
I think Jack Nicholson is right. We can’t handle the truth. Picture yourself on social media making an angry assertion about something, and then someone provides some evidence for you that shows that you were wrong. Tell me right now - do you back down straight away and admit you were wrong? Most social media engagement I’ve seen says that your pride is more important than the truth.
We’d prefer to hold on to what we now know is false, than admit we were wrong.
We can’t handle the truth.
The truth can cause a shake-up of what we think is right. Our pride can take a beating, and we’re not often willing to humbly admit we got the facts wrong.
Take for example someone who says, ‘Jesus Christ is just a fairy-tale, an absolute fairy-tale. What a load of rubbish!’ Then someone replies with, ‘But, Jesus Christ did in fact walk the earth. He’s not a fairy-tale. You might not agree that he is who he says he is, but he did in fact live and breathe on earth.’ Do you think that person is going to alter their thoughts? Maybe. We can remain hopeful. I suggest this person prefers to live in a post-truth bubble than confront the inadequacies of their own thought processes.
How do I look?
Let me give you a scenario. You and your partner are about to head off to an incredible evening of fine-dining for the annual regional business function. After some time of waiting, your partner walks into the lounge room and asks, ‘Do I look good in this dress?’ Now, if that’s the husband who’s meant to be wearing a tuxedo, you probably have a problem. If it’s the wife and she looks stunning, you simply reply with, ‘You look amazing, darling.’ Though, what if the wife just doesn’t look great in that dress…?
I’m a firm believer in truth. If I didn’t steal the cookie from the cookie jar, I don’t like to be accused that I did. The struggle I have, is living in a world where there seems to be an inclination to simply find thoughts/ideas/statements that perpetuate someone’s own preconceived ideas without a willingness to be challenged by alternate views. This post-truth world is difficult to navigate through when ideas are held up as true if someone says it passionately enough.
Give someone a megaphone for long enough and you’re bound to find someone begin to follow.
For the Christian, we hold to the truth we understand about Christ and who he is and what he’s done for humanity. These words from 2 Timothy chapter 4, verses 2-5 highlight the point,
‘Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.’
This post-truth world means we will need to have great patience. We will need to humble ourselves, deal with our pride and learn to use careful instruction. We must keep our head in all situations. Because the reality is…
We can’t handle the truth!
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at http://www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:
Peter Brookshaw’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/peter-brookshaw.html