At least that’s what the TV said. Facts are now whatever you want them to be, just as long as they support your worldview. I don’t know if I have ever heard the term “alternative facts” until Kellyanne Conway said it about Trump’s inauguration audience size. What seems silly and incredibly trivial became headline news. Facts and figures seemed to be up for debate.
I don’t get it.
Now I don’t know if it’s any one person’s fault entirely, but it is toxic. Not long ago, facts were the unifying things that brought people with different opinions together. Two plus two equaled four. Whether you liked the number two or not didn’t matter at that point. The fact was that adding two with another two would result in four.
Simple math right? So how is that suddenly thrown out the window when there is a sudden political motivation behind the number? Why is it suddenly a politically charged statement to say that Barack Obama clearly had more people at his inauguration than Trump did? I looked at pictures. I saw timestamps. I watched both live on TV. Is someone really going to tell me that there is some grand conspiracy to fool the American people using CGI and Photoshop?
What the heaven is happening…
So facts aren’t facts anymore I guess…
Now, I use the example of an inauguration audience size because a) it was the first time I wondered what the birth of “alternative facts” meant for this country and b) it seems like the tamest, and even most comical example to illustrate the point of this post.
How dangerous would it be for me to bring up examples of what is or isn’t a fact in regards to… climate change? What about this super fun “fake news” spectacle? How about special investigations on possible Russian collusion? Immigration? Views on attacking Syria? Adult film actresses? White House Correspondance Dinners? The list goes on… and on… and on…
Now I know… trust me I know… just uttering some of these words is enough to set some people off. Angry rants may ensue, frustration and blame may immediately be assigned, but perhaps the saddest of all is this… facts will be argued.
Currently, as a people, we can no longer agree on what constitutes a fact…
Trust is at an all-time low. Strike up a conversation and bring up the fact that your weather had been record-breakingly weird with a stranger. I would hazard a guess to say that the stranger will express strong opinions about whether global warming exists or not, and what constitutes facts. If we can’t even agree on something empirical, something with the adjective “record-breaking” then how can we ever hope to converse with one another about less factual discussions… things that require faith… you know… things like God and Jesus and such…
Set an example for our “leaders”
I’m not sure the answer lies in our leadership. If anything, our political system has created the problem that affects our daily life. Now I don’t care what political affiliation you have, what I care about is if you agree we need to once again learn how to conduct civil discourse. We need to learn how to have conversations over a cup of coffee with people we don’t agree with and leave these conversations still loving and respecting one another.
I think we also need to be better at listening. So often the example set for us by our leaders is the exact opposite. I have kids, and the current behavior modeled for them seems to be this: Speak more and louder than everyone else with an emphasis on facts you don’t like being deemed “subjective.”
I mean honestly… when was the last time you heard a prominent political leader apologize, admitting they were wrong? I know it has happened at least a couple of times, but the amount of times it should have happened as opposed to when it actually does is probably quite considerable.
Why even bring it up
Well… I have gotten to a point where I feel the need to say something… I hate speaking on politics because of how divisive it is, but we are currently at a whole new level of terrible.
I also think that the church has only made it worse. So often I hear the term “evangelical” used in political rhetoric. Once upon a time that word meant going and telling the world about Jesus. Now it is used in conjunction with:
- Forgiving Trump of wrongdoings
- Forgiving Trump some more
Now, this is not a political statement… this is a fact. I google searched “evangelical” then clicked on the “news” tab and these were the headlines I saw. I went through pages of search results looking for one thing I hope to see tied to the label “evangelical” but I came up short. The one thing this term was not used with, not even once, was:
Now I know what some of you might say… “Fake News” has it out for people of faith, but I offer another perspective. I think Evangelicals are reaping what they have been sowing for the past 50+ years.
John 13:35 (NIV)
35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Church, we are in the midst of an identity crisis. We are no longer known by how we love one another. These are Jesus’ words. He is telling us, His followers, that we will be known as His disciples by how we love one another, just the way He taught us to. Instead, we have made a spectacle of His name by associating it with worldly things, with politics, with selfish desires, with human ambition.
It’s ruining the Church’s witness…
Maybe you disagree, maybe you will tell me I need to get my facts straight. I don’t know… I look at research like this and can think only one thing, is there not something more we should be known for?
There are three different metrics for “Christian”… and all of them are in decline…
So in response do we continue to argue over “alternative facts” or get over ourselves and stick to the simplistic gospel message given to us by the Son of God?
We need to be known for how much we love God and love our neighbors… not whether we align with the political “right” or “left”…
Until next time…
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