“The Truth Is Out There—Way Out"
That’s the headline of the October 17 TIME magazine piece on the fate of “truth” in this presidential election season. And anybody who watched Sunday evening’s debate knows that both candidates played fast and loose with the truth. But it is not the intent of this blog to play fact checker. We leave that to the pundits.
Instead let’s reflect for a moment on the cavalier treatment of “truth” in today’s social-media-driven culture—and wonder aloud how all of this will impact an apocalyptic mission to communicate divine truth to this civilization.
The challenge any proponent of “truth” faces is that we now live in a media-saturated world “where nothing and no one can be trusted” (TIME 10-17-2016 p. 30). So no matter how many “authorities” are dragged into the public square to proffer their studied opinions and learned conclusions, vast swaths of the public simply write it off as conspiracy. But let a social media snippet go viral, and suddenly the prevailing standard becomes “if people are saying it, it might be true.” The truth is, people are repeating the strangest and most bizarre rumors as unalloyed truth. Spend five minutes clicking from link to link in the internet, and you will discover a dozen examples of playing “footsie with fantasy.”
What happens when websites conflict in their pronouncement of truth or falsehood? “. . . if you’re an ordinary American, you might not know which of these two versions is the truth: you’d just believe the one that sounds most true to you” (ibid., 31). Are there then no objective standards by which we can judge the veracity of claims or the lack thereof? “There is simply too much information for the public to accurately metabolize, which means that distortions—and outright falsehoods—are almost inevitable” (ibid.).
So where shall we turn? “Instead of institutions, people look to their social networks for information. . . . Passed from Facebook to Facebook, retweeted by thousands of anonymous accounts, ideas can spread quickly without verification or context. People tend to share content that gets the most extreme reactions, which means a terrifying but untrue story will be shared more widely than a mildly alarming but accurate one” (ibid., 32).
Is the outlook for the future any rosier for TIME’s writers? “Whatever the outcome in November, none of this will end. . . . Pandora’s box has been opened, and once enough people believe something false, it begins to sound almost true” (ibid.).
“So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14). Stumbled, fallen (KJV) in the streets of public opinion, what a compelling depiction of the fate of truth in this third millennial society!
And yet into this very world Christ still sends his disciples, his friends, you and me. Armed with little more than “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17)—please note Jesus was clear, “Sanctify [My followers] by the truth; Your Word is truth” (John 17:17)—armed with little more than that Word of Truth, we are sent into the very culture struggling with Pilate’s perplexed question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Knowing there are tens of thousands who want to know, we must hurry to them—privately, personally, publicly, collectively—with the truth as it is in Jesus.
Thus Hope Trending—and why we go together. Only nine nights long—but long enough for the Spirit of Christ to shine the light of Truth into minds still open. So thank you for harnessing your social media for God’s mission. Please get the word out: October 14 8 PM ET @ www.hopetrending.org and on HOPE TV. In a world driven to confusion by the enemy of all Truth, we partner with the triumphant One, “I am the Truth” (John 14:7).
In the end.
Thus our hope.