It’s a sad commentary on contemporary society that the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The term leaped from obscurity to common usage since late 2015 due to the news coverage of Brexit in the UK and the US elections.
The problem isn’t new, even if the word is. King Solomon wrote about it almost 3000 years ago.
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2, NIV)
When I was in my early thirties, a friend told me I was opinionated. She meant it as an insult. I quipped, “If you’ve ever actually thought about something, you’ll have an opinion.” Not the most gracious reply, but true.
But thinking about something isn’t enough if we don’t base that thinking on the facts of the matter and not just the emotion of the moment.
“Post-truth” politics, whether it’s in the United Kingdom, the United States, or anywhere on the planet, can lead to angry divisions and open hostility. When people don’t agree, discussions turn into shouting matches rather than a respectful agreement to disagree.
It is possible for people with good intentions to look at the same set of facts about a problem and come up with different proposals for how to solve it. That’s actually a good thing.
Looking at all sides of a problem and calmly discussing it can yield a solution that is much better than either side would find on its own.
The big danger of post-truth politics arises when opinions based on emotions instead of the true nature of a situation lead to shouting matches instead of polite discussions.
As Christians, we’re called to speak the truth in love. What does love look like? Paul summed it up perfectly when he was writing to the Christians in Corinth.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:4-6, NIV)
Let’s always honor and rejoice in the truth. Let’s lovingly encourage others to do the same.
How do you discuss emotionally charged issues with a loving attitude even when you totally disagree?