We live in a post-truth world. At least, that’s what we are being told. Fake news dominates Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s hard to know what to believe because truth no longer matters. What matters in our post-truth world is how we “feel” about something.
This is not entirely new. Humans have always been guided by our feelings and emotions. Studies show that we filter “truth” through our passions, not through objectivity. We have an amazing capacity to interpret truth in ways that justify our own actions, whether those actions are moral or immoral. (See The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt.) In other words, we tend to care more about being “right” than we care about the truth. Maybe a post-truth world will allow us to admit this more easily.
There’s another silver lining to the post-truth world. Wherever we fall on the ideological spectrum, we often use “the truth” for ego trips and power boosts. The ego loves to make truth claims. They make us feel strong as we use “the truth” as a weapon against our foolish enemies. We beat one another over the head with the “truth stick,” hoping that we might convince our opponents of their false ways.
Have you ever seen that method work?
Interestingly, Christianity tells a different truth. When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” he primarily means two things. First, in a negative sense, he means that his follower are not the truth. So whenever Christians make truth claims, we need to speak them with a sense of humility. We are not the truth. We don’t hold the truth. If anything, the Spirit of Truth holds us.
Paul wrote that we can possess all the truth about the mysteries and knowledge of the world, but if we don’t have love we are like a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13). Unlike our post-truth world that emphasizes emotions, biblical love is not an emotion. It’s an action. Love is a verb. It seeks the best for ourselves and for others, including those we call our enemies.
Love for enemies seems overwhelming at times. How can we do it? Realizing that love is not primarily an emotion has helped me. We can love our fellow human beings without having fond feelings for them. Even more important, Christian truth calls us to tap into the Source of universal Love through prayer. And when we do, we realize that the Source has already tapped into us.
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