How do we live together in a world of Post-truth? This is the dystopian question which causes many futurists to sleeplessly abandon their ruffled beds. Maybe you have seen the YouTube sensations I shared in my recent sermons. There was “The Dress,” which appeared white and gold to some, and black and light blue to others. There was also the audio playback of “Laurel and Yanni.” The congregation was split 50/50 over whether they heard one or the other. How could we hear and see the world so differently? I don’t know, but the truth is we do.
In psychology studies, it has been shown that we begin to see the world the way we want to see it. In other words, we may begin to only look at things that confirm the way we want to see the world.
Take the example of this basic psychological profile question. In Intro to Counseling, a counselor performing an intake on a new patient may ask the very simple, but profound question: “Do you see the world as mostly good or mostly bad?”
If we see the world as mostly bad, we may begin to focus more and more on things that prove our point of view. There are 300 channels on my TV and more than half would confirm a person’s negative world view.
The other side of the coin is just as true. If a patient saw the world as mostly good, they would begin to look for the good even in the worst of situations. One example I read talked about the Christmas Tsunami in Indonesia. One person said that was the worst natural disaster. The positive person looked at all the volunteers coming out to help.
In the real world, the two patients may call each other all kinds of names and absurdities for seeing the world differently, even though they both have their own subjective truth.
As this phenomenon becomes more prevalent and moves from the trivial to the emotional, political, and moral, we may find ourselves backing into our own corners, where we feel safe and have our own post-truth worldview confirmed.
The danger of this post-truth world happens when we begin to want “our side” to be so right, that we take hearsay as evidential. This is where “he said vs she said” begins to hold up in the public court of opinion. We are in worse trouble when in the post-truth world, when we accept insults as viable proof of the invalidity of another’s empirical argument.
For example, could a scientific argument be nullified in the following manner, “He said blue whales are in danger. He is dumb. Who wears a bowtie on national TV?” How can we trust that? I don’t know, but studies have shown that if we agree with the person making the insult, then we will agree with the point and reject the other who may be right.
In the classic Orwellian novel 1984, someone you believe could tell you 2+3=4 enough times and with enough authority that eventually you would agree. It would become your truth.
So the question remains: How do we live as Christians in this post-truth world?
A great response comes from Paul in his letter to Galatians where two groups who had their own views and truths of the world were learning to live together as one community. Their peace came from not agreeing on facts, but from agreeing on virtues. Paul said, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” There is no law against such things. We will talk about each of these over the summer to see what it means to live them out in this brave new world.
Rev. Trey Hegar