“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
This is a deep, heart-driven prayer that asks God for two things:
1) Deliverance from the deceitful lies of the world.
2) Wisdom to avoid the seduction of either wealth or poverty.
The first part of the prayer is prophetically relevant for our time in history. We are living in an era of unprecedented misinformation and deceit. Our society is experiencing the devastating personal and social consequence of the death of truth.
Driven by ideology and reactive emotion rather than thoughtful deliberation, much of today’s social and political discourse is shallow, polarized, and plagued with misinformation. People are easily seduced by slogans, manipulated by memes, and deceived by propaganda. What is actually true is no longer the reference point.
As a result, America is becoming a land strewn with confusion, chaos, and conflict. With alarming speed, post-truth Americans are becoming the personification of the unbound and unaccountable.
A post-truth culture is a society of power alone, which is precisely what is being played out in government, media, and the current wave of protests and violence in our cities. Rather than doing the hard work of collaborating to find solutions through the disciplined application of timeless principles, activist politicians and pundits use incendiary rhetoric to stoke the fires of unrest, and anarchists and nihilists take to the streets and chaos reigns. As a result, conditions are made worse, not better.
What is lost in the chaos and conflict is the quest for the truth about issues of policing, racism, economic opportunity, freedom, education, or any other topic of importance to our society. And without truth, there will be no solutions.
In the midst of this chaos, the Christian community has an opportunity to make a difference. It certainly won’t be easy, as the forces of darkness and deceit are strong. But scripture describes the church as “the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Timothy 3.15), and we must fulfill that calling in this time of need.
I love what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4: “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
A post-truth American society cannot long endure, for a free society without truth is a society that is literally out of its mind. Deprived of truth, the American capacity for freedom will be squeezed out of the American character.
Solution-oriented deliberation and debate relies on truth and not simply power. It respects the dignity of the opponent, strives for truth as the outcome, and relies always on rational persuasion, not coercion. When a principle-driven debate honors these principles and then prevails in argument and establishes the truth, everyone wins. Even a person shown that they were wrong now knows what is right and has been led to understand it with respect.
Post-truth discourse, in contrast, is a lose-lose proposition because its sole consideration is power. With its insults, abuse, venomous ad hominem attacks, its refusal to compromise, and its fight to the death for victory at all costs, post-truth argument is not about truth at all. It is about power and winning. Period.
Even when power-based arguments win, everyone loses. The attackers may degrade their opponents, but in the process they degrade themselves and diminish the republic and the cause of true liberty.
How should the Christian community respond? Paul’s admonition to Timothy speaks to the heart of it.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4.1-3)
Heavenly Father, I pray fervently that we, your people, would preach and practice the truth without compromise in our time and place in history, and that we would do so relentlessly, lovingly, consistently, and wisely.