Post-Truth: Are You Kidding Me?

Each year, various dictionaries come up with their word of the year. The Oxford Dictionary states that its decision for that word each year is based upon a spike in the use and popularity of a particular term. Their choice for 2016 was the word “post-truth.”

According to them, post-truth refers to “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, people are more apt to be ruled by their emotions than by the facts. Ugh!

UGH! And again, I say, “UGH!”

According to Oxford, post-truth has seen an increase in usage in conjunction with Brexit and the US presidential election. Apparently, the upsurge in its frequency has been sparked by these two major world events. (Time for another ugh!)

If they are correct, two of the most important, life-altering decisions of the year were infused with more emotion than clear thought. Either that, or the fall-out from these events was more reactionary than reasoned. Actually, it could be both.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it a tad disturbing that this might actually be true. (Of course, I don’t discount the fact that my feelings of disturbance may be post-truth itself—my synapses are beginning to crackle and pop.)

Have we actually gotten to the point where most of us make decisions on our sentiments rather than reality? Are our reactions to the events around us now simply cacophonous tirades against things we don’t choose to understand? Have we gotten to the place where logical thought is passé?

Using your brains to love God…

One of the reasons Christianity helped to shape the world in the first place is its propensity to cause people to think. It’s no coincidence that the early scientists were Christians. Faith in God and belief in Scripture sparked humanity to explore creation. If we were to take dominion over the earth and tend the garden (Genesis 1:26), we had to know everything we could discover about it. We’re still doing that (although some of the underpinnings may have been misplaced).

In Deuteronomy, there is a passage that exhorts us to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). When quoting that passage, Jesus added one word. He said we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, MIND, and strength (Mark 12:30). In other words, we were to love the Creator by using our brains as well as our brawn and emotion.

If the folks at the Oxford Dictionary are right, we’ve taken a giant step backward. If we’re making decisions based upon our feelings, or reacting to our circumstances in a knee-jerk fashion, it could get real scary real fast.

It seems to me, Adam and Eve had the same problem. They were given enough facts to make the logical decision to avoid the forbidden fruit. They chose to go the touchy-feely route instead, and look at what it’s gotten us. Maybe we should try to avoid the same mistake. Think about it. Truth matters.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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