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Can you handle the truth?

Can you handle the truth?

Can you handle the truth?

31 August 2020

Captain Pete Brookshaw says the post-truth world means Christians will need to have great patience.

By Pete Brookshaw

We live in a post-truth world. And the crazy part is, what I just said doesn’t need to be true, you just need to believe it.

Consider any argument – perhaps about racism, sexuality, social security payments, character assessments of rich people, taxing the billionaires or educational strategies for local schools – if the rhetoric is persuasive enough, we don’t care if it’s true, we’ll run with it.

I’m not going to try to convince you what I’m saying is objectively true. Consider the facts for yourself. In the 1992 film, A Few Good Men, Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), a US military lawyer, seeks to defend two US marines from being charged with murdering another marine. There’s that powerful scene where the colonel (Jack Nicholson) is being drilled in the courtroom by the young lawyer on whether he ordered a ‘code red’. The lawyer says forthrightly, “It’s the truth!”, and the colonel bellows in reply, “You can’t handle the truth!”

I think Jack Nicholson is right. We can’t handle the truth. Picture yourself on social media making an angry assertion about something, and then someone provides some evidence for you that shows you were wrong. Tell me right now – do you back down straight away and admit you were wrong? Most social media engagement I’ve seen says that your pride is more important than the truth. We’d prefer to hold on to what we now know is false than admit we were wrong. We can’t handle the truth.

The truth can cause a shake-up of what we think is right. Our pride can take a beating, and we’re not often willing to humbly admit we got the facts wrong. Take, for example, someone who says, “Jesus Christ is just a fairytale, an absolute fairytale. What a load of rubbish!” Then someone replies with, “But Jesus Christ did, in fact, walk the earth. He’s not a fairytale. You might not agree that he is who he says he is, but he did, in fact, live and breathe on earth.” Do you think that person is going to alter their thoughts? Maybe. We can remain hopeful. I suggest this person prefers to live in a post-truth bubble than confront the inadequacies of their own thought processes.

Let me give you a scenario. A married couple is about to head off to an incredible evening of fine dining for the annual regional business function. After some time of waiting, the wife walks into the lounge room and asks her husband, “Do I look good in this dress?” If she looks stunning, the husband will simply reply, “You look amazing, darling.” What if, however, the wife just doesn’t look great in that dress?

I’m a firm believer in truth. If I didn’t steal the cookie from the cookie jar, I don’t like to be accused that I did. The struggle I have is living in a world where there seems to be an inclination to simply find thoughts/ideas/statements that perpetuate someone’s own preconceived ideas without a willingness to be challenged by alternative views. This post-truth world is difficult to navigate when an idea is held up as true if someone says it passionately enough. Give someone a megaphone for long enough and you’re bound to find someone who will begin to follow.

For the Christian, we hold to the truth we understand about Christ and who he is and what he’s done for humanity. These words from 2 Timothy 4:2-5 highlight the point: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

This post-truth world means we will need to have great patience. We will need to humble ourselves, deal with our pride and learn to use careful instruction. We must keep our head in all situations. Because the reality is, we think we have the truth. We think we know the right path. And, granted, sometimes we might. But in this season, quite often I fear that some who think they have all their opinions down pat are actually unable to see beyond their own rigid ideological positions.

How about we stop for a minute and consider – the other side might just have something worth listening to.

Pete Brookshaw is Corps Officer of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He blogs at petebrookshaw.com

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