Truth, Post-Truth and Alternative Facts

Young people are growing up in interesting times to say the least. Over the past year, both here and abroad, it seems that Truth has become merely a possibility, an option among many that can be believed if you choose to do so. This has become so common that the Oxford English Dictionary’s word for 2016 was Post-Truth –‘ relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’

It strikes me that if you shout something loud enough for long enough, people might believe it and worse than that you might believe it yourself. As a result we seem to be swimming in a pool of untruths, now, I have heard an alternative name for those somewhere? Oh yes, alternative facts, oh no wait there is a simpler phrase, what is it…I remember…Lies!

Have we come to a place where we have outgrown the need for truth? Or is it just easier to get people to believe in lies? Is it the case that facts have been outgrown by whatever serves my argument best? More to the point is how we help young people to grow into mature adults when they witness mature adults publicly behaving like toddlers! Caught with crayon in hand drawing on the wall they turn to a lie, ‘it wasn’t me!’ How we help young people learn forgiveness, both asking for it and offering it, when they see adults offering their ‘alternative facts’ for the situation is vital. ‘I didn’t make a mistake - you just didn’t see it from my point of view.’

Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that we all tell lies, often in error, but the danger is the web gets bigger and bigger and harder to extract ourselves from. Perhaps we need to admit to others and ourselves that we lie. Perhaps we need to say sorry and seek forgiveness.

So how do we help young people growing up in a society proliferated with lies? Perhaps it starts with giving them the skills to uncover ‘alternative facts’. Maybe we can help them to seek truth, help them to ask questions and keep asking questions. The Bible has a lot to say about lies, truth and forgiveness, not least when Jesus says, ‘the truth will set you free’.  Maybe the truth is the freedom young people need to escape from society’s web of deceit?


Written by Paul North