Earlier today, a Facebook friend pointed to a tendency when people share information e.g. on Facebook for them to spread falsehoods if it happens to back up their point of view. It got me thinking …
The comment was in context of a number of posts to do with, who else, Donald Trump, and this was particularly aimed at supporters of a man he considers to be a serial liar (e.g. see here), who may use dubious sources and do whataboutism. Following the November 11th Remembrance Day celebrations and an event Trump was supposed to attend but did not because of the weather there were posts mocking Trump for his non attendance on what was considered spurious grounds by among others two respected Christian friends. It seemed to me Trump had a legitimate reason for not attending but truth was cast aside because those who posted did not like Trump and the story told by various mainstream media happened to fit this negative portrayal. It seemed ironic given Trumps support of the military and well documented respect for those who died.
Ever since Trump became a serious Presidential candidate over two years ago, I have been keenly following his dramatic journey, and have written about this in my e-book: “Donald J Trump – bad, mad or good?” I concluded that despite having glaring flaws in character (including lying) and in setting policy, on balance he is good for the world and he has been raised up by God to lead the global battle against evil and corruption i.e. to drain the swamp. The things I especially love about Trump is he asks important questions, doesn’t accept nonsense, says it as it is and does what he says. I then found myself ever since in the uncomfortable position of sticking up for him, and while I have a number of pro Trump friends, it seems there are more who are anti Trump, who in my opinion have got it wrong. But given the stakes are high and the issues are grave, I mustn’t shut up, as it would be a dereliction of duty if I did.
As I have remarked more than once, when I became a Christian the group I associated with in those early days did not think taking interest in the sort of question posed in my e-book was appropriate. I have long theologized on the matter and am now of the view it can be providing a number of principles are observed, headed by the text above. I have been brought to task more than once for sharing information that is factually incorrect but when that is pointed out I try to put right. I also realize we need to distinguish fact from opinion, and as far as we can refer to reputable sources rather than hearsay etc., notwithstanding in the end we need to make our own judgments. I realise there is a lot we don’t know and all of us have a belief system that whether we mean to or not will influence our point of view on someone like Donald Trump.
Sadly, I have come to distrust mainstream media, and even when they tell the truth it often is half the truth and about stuff that fits their narrative. While I often look to alternative media for news, I recognize they often have an agenda and are sometimes over keen to promote conspiracy theories. Ultimately, it should come down to judgement: researching the facts and then weighing them. As for how Christians respond, I am mindful of deep division, and while it is tempting to get on our truthful high horse, we need grace and humility too, including saying “I may be / was wrong” and “I don’t know”. Prayer and Bible study is important and I have even come round to the idea of the prophetic word that might help us make sense of the world, and it is a matter of deciding if that word is true.
Having explained the challenge I and others who think as I do face, I need to set out my store. It would be the easiest thing in the world to withdraw from expressing a view (in some countries doing so could be a death sentence), but it would be irresponsible for me, as would going along with the opinion of the majority, especially when as happens here the majority are wrong. When I wrote my book “Outside the Camp”, some five years ago, it was my story as a gospel preaching community activist that saw the need to start off “inside the veil” before going “outside the camp” to engage with the wider culture. While I look forward to the day when culture among much else will be redeemed with the return of Jesus, we are still called to do good and resist evil living in the world.
We are also called to “watch and pray”. A lot of my writing is as a result of my watching, but I recognize I need to pray more and pontificate less. Part of a watchman’s role is to warn and while it may not be popular it needs to happen and too few fulfill this role, and is what I seek to do, for if not me then who? While one should robustly state what is, noting when it is opinion, the quest and respect for truth is paramount as well as the importance of gaining wisdom and understanding, which are activities for a lifetime.
Afterthought: I am mindful some Christians strongly disagree with me on some of these matters, even among those I consider as doctrinally on my wavelength. Given the great hope of the Church is in the prayer Jesus prayed in John 17 “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” 20,21, it is important that we who follow Jesus don’t fall out on these matters and are united in serving and declaring Him to the world, doing good while we can. It is true that every day as I read my various news feeds I see a string of things going on in the world that I find upsetting and am desirous to put them right, knowing I can’t, other than doing my bit to serve and pray to God and live in peace with my fellow man where I can. It is tempting to look to individuals to save us and is why I wrote as I did, but the truth is that even the best and most powerful of humanity is limited in what he can do and is not always right. But the one we need to put our hope in is the Lord God Almighty, who alone can save, and will not disappoint.
Update 30/11/18: The matter of truth is rarely far from us and new examples crop up every day, e.g. the extent we rely on instinct or pure facts. The problem with the former is our instincts can be wrong and the problem with the latter is the tendency to select those facts that match already held opinions. Often when trying to come to a view, we don’t have all the facts, or they are distorted, and we have to take a view. Then when it comes to truth: is this something to be regarded as more important than love? It seems to me that the biblical model is we need both and we fall short if we focus on one and not the other. As for Trump, people are divided as to whether he upholds truth or deals in lies or is a flawed mixture. The answer is probably the latter. I suspect in the next few months we will see some startling revelations – some will back up some peoples’ negative views and some will vindicate what he has been saying and / or hinted at regarding a large cohort of bad people who have been wicked and lied about it. Yet it should be realised that the truth question should apply to every area of life, and not just issues like Brexit but in our day to day conduct in how we handle people and situations. As far as we the wider public goes, we do not have all the facts, but hope truth will win. And as for us, it is back to the text at the beginning of this article, and giving it top priority: “buy truth and do not sell it“. This should permeate our thoughts and actions, including how we react and deal with events. While we may disagree e.g. our views on Trump etc. we need to be truth exemplars.