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Post-Truth, Fake News And The Gospel

Author: Caz Creighton

Post-Truth, Fake News And The Gospel

When Pope Francis compared listening to fake news to eating “faeces”, I thought it a bit extreme. However, perhaps the analogy is not as farfetched as it seems.

If it looks like news, sounds like news and feels like news, it must be news… right? Sadly not in our ever more partisan world. The problem with fake news is, unsurprisingly, that it is not true and, perhaps more worryingly, that it can come burdened with all sorts of hidden agendas.

If we base our beliefs, opinions and worldviews on these untruths, our ability to live and love as God intended can be severely hampered.

Language of the Enemy

In the run up to the US election, my Facebook feed was lit up by claims that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump. The story, which unequivocally stated that the Pope had sided with the Republican nominee, was shared by almost one million people on Facebook.

Even though it was later revealed as falsehood, I shudder to think how many people went to the polls still believing it to be true.

This is just one of many examples of how false news undermines our democracy, our ability to make free and fair decisions and our way of life. Spiritually, though, the toll may be even higher still.

Adam and Eve ‘died’ when they denied the truth through their actions, when they believed God did not have their best interests at heart. They fell victim to a lie.

The words we speak may change from country to country, but the language of the Enemy is lies wherever we may find him. Jesus called Satan the father of lies and a murderer (John 8: 44). The Devil’s untruths unravelled the faith of Adam and Eve in Eden and the danger remains for us all in the modern world.

Post-Truth: A Distortion

Fake news is the latest symptom of an ill society, where distrust trumps truth – a poisonous thread that can be traced back to Eden. In recent times, society has been operating according to ideologies which go against what God made us for.

I am thinking about atheism (‘God doesn’t exist’), materialism (‘nothing else exists other than we can see’), hedonism (‘all that matters is that which gives me pleasure’) and, of course, relativism (‘there is no truth’, which is in itself a tautology; how can it be true that ‘there is not truth’’ if truth doesn’t exist? One of those questions that disappears confusingly inside itself). Even though it is not an ideology per se, I am adding post-truth to this list.

Post-truth, which was crowned the word of 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries, is a term used to describe a reality in which personal beliefs are favoured over facts. This is how fake news works: distorting the truth to fit an agenda. In this new world, it is perception, not reality, that what matters.

The Truth Sets Us Free

For Christians, post-truth should be alarming. The Bible tells us that when God “did his work of creation…. He arranged everything in an eternal order and decreed that it should be in that way forever” (Sirach 16:26-28).

This means there are rules by which we should live (see also: Sirach 17: 1-11). This is why Jesus said that the truth would set us free: freedom can only come from living as God intended, from living in truth.

Truth is not dependent upon time. Truth is objective, absolute and immutable. So, the Pope may have been closer to the mark than I originally thought.

Eating “faeces” is a good analogy for consuming fake news after all. If we fill ourselves with lies, not only would we gain nothing but our souls would whither, fall ill and die.

Links

Pope, faeces: here

Pope supports Donald Trump fake news: here

Pope story shared nearly one million times on Facebook: here

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