• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Thursday, 30 August 2018 19:14

Christian Response in the Post-Truth Era - a reflection


Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD 150 LighterBy Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD

Nowadays there are a lot of lamentations about fake news and post-truth politics where facts and truthfulness have seemingly taken a backseat to non-facts, alternative facts, and emotionally stirring rhetoric. But fake news is no news. The serpent in the Garden of Eden whispered fake news to Eve to persuade her to eat the forbidden fruit. The invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1439 allowed for fake news to be available in print for one to read. The invention of radio made it possible for many Americans in 1938 to believe in the “fake news” audio broadcast that the country was being attacked by Martians and jammed the police line with emergency calls. And fake news in the digital age causes some Americans to think that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump in the US presidential campaign, Buddhists in Myanmar to want to rid the country of Muslim Rohingyas, and Indonesian Muslims to protest and call for blasphemy charges to be brought against the former Christian governor of the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta. 

Fake News 450Despite these complaints about fake news and the general post-truth mindset permeating modern society, the term itself reveals that “truth” remains the primary reference point for knowledge. The fact that fake news, misinformation and outright falsehoods seem to distract and sometimes even determine the general public opinion on various important matters has not displaced the notion that truthfulness remains a criteria in evaluating information. The term post-truth, at the same time that it reflects a certain intellectual attitude, also draws attention to the fundamental thinking that reality ought to be considered and reflected upon in light of its relation to truth. Therefore, the term is not simply evidence of intellectual cynicism and defeatism pervading human thought, or a nostalgia for the sense of certainty that authoritative resources were once able to provide, but also a reminder that the value of facts and truth ought not be completely erased from individual and collective human life. 

By calling this era “post-truth”, is that not because it reflects a situation in which we no longer understand what truth means, or that truth has lost its standing in our mental deliberations. Rather, the post-truth climate reflects more accurately a conundrum where people are uncertain about the legitimacy of the truth presented to them and the trustworthiness of the source of information. The problem lies in the process of establishing the truth and the people involved in that process. People’s disenchantment with truth does not mean they have no need for truths or that they dislike truths, but that due to a variety of reasons the ability to distinguish between genuine truths and bogus truths has been impaired, so that anything that appeals to them emotionally gets the upper  hand. Even though there are abundance of untruths in our midst, the world is neither ready nor willing to say goodbye to truth.

As religion is concerned with the well-being of humanity in all of its dimensions, religion arguably has the most to lose if what an official religious institution has to say has as much weight as a blogger from Taipei or a Youtube channel owner from Chicago. The challenge for religion is to deeply understand the present milieu with its tremendous complexity. Traditional beliefs and modern scientific knowledge for an increasing number of people seem to contradict in irreconcilable ways. Local ways of thinking and being are increasingly being brought into question due to globalisation. Freer or more difficult-to-control communication channels brought about by technological advancement also expose deception at seats of power that once seemed beyond public scrutiny. Even scientific orthodoxy such as the consensus on climate change and global warming can be refuted by the few entities and individuals who have vested interest in its denial. Religion needs to humbly accept that religious orthodoxy is equally susceptible to rejection as any other type of orthodoxy on the market. In the present context, all traditional social pillars have equal opportunity for being knocked down by those who would prefer to build society upon different construction materials. 

In the face of the post-truth climate, the Catholic Church can resign itself to fate, to accept this reality as part of the ongoing global democratisation process, or the Church can assert and articulate about itself in ways that distinguish it from the rest of the smorgasbord. In this age of information overload, fake news about Christianity and Church leaders, and inconsistent messages from and about the Church, we must confront the situation with a clear and concise articulation about what Christianity is all about not only within the Church but also across denominations. Religious communication in the post-truth climate is a multi-dimensional task, which includes the intra-communication as well as the inter-communication dimensions. Intra-communication takes place inside the religious tradition whereas the inter-communication is the communication that is done across traditions. 

In this regard, we can find an excellent example in how Jesus Christ spoke about himself and the reason for his being. In the Gospel of John, when Thomas, also known as Thomas the Doubter, asked, “Lord we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:5-6). This concise answer by Jesus assured Thomas that any uncertainty and apprehensions he might feel towards the future could be resolved when trust is placed in him. The exploration, affirmation and communication of these rich and powerful images is important in the post-truth climate where authoritative truths are often degraded to mere opinion, and all opinions are considered of equal value. The communication of these images is also important in a situation where non-facts, alternative facts, and blatant lies can also be publicized as truths by any individual, anywhere, anytime. If the Church becomes lackadaisical in its internal and interreligious communication tasks, it puts itself in danger of becoming one of the countless versions of truths available on the market for which to pick and choose. By articulating about ourselves through powerful images, the Church can affirm its continued relevance and importance in the life of people in the world despite the ever changing social and political milieu.