I have recently observed a growing distrust, of the news, of government amongst Christians. What shall we make of this? Here are some meandering thoughts.
Jesus said, “…the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32b)
Hold onto those works, we’ll return to them in their context.
First, in our world today there is growing distrust of truth and impairment of freedom. This in turn produces a form of bondage. In the old days news was supposed to be unbiased, a presentation of the facts more or less, leaving the readers or viewers to decide. The pursuit of truth requires a freedom to inquire and follow where you believe the facts take you. It seeks to be objective. The moment freedom is removed or facts are viewed in a biased way then truth itself is compromised. The prevailing philosophy of our time, postmodernism, has no doubt underpinned this as it views all truth as subjective, your truth, my truth, not the truth. The problem is that over time growing subjectivity in the media (on the left and the right) meant that biased news began to be labelled “fake news.” Both left and right used this to advance their agenda and exploit the other side. “Fact checking” became the hallmark of left and right. Echo chambers have paralyzed any meaningful conversation. The recent pandemic has only exacerbated this. What is true? What is real? A want of truth paralyses society because relationships are rooted in trust and so mistrust becomes a form of bondage.
Second, the rise of authoritarianism threatens truth and freedom. Putin’s authoritarian coverage of Ukraine is a prime example of this. Today I listened to a Russian living in Ukraine trying to convince his Russian father that what he was being told on state media wasn’t the same as reality on the ground. But this is where truth and freedom come closer to home. Here in Canada Covid states of emergency shut down reasonable discussion over the virus and our response, Bill C-4 has restricted expression and investigation into areas of morality and identity, the recent use of the Emergency Act allowed political dissent to be deemed as treason, and the controversial Bill C-10 would grant further powers of censorship. But this should not surprise us because neo-liberalism—a prevailing ideology—places the group ahead of the individual and uses tactics of demonization and power to advance its agenda rather than logic and truth. Thankfully we’re not so far along in this process as other countries in the world but the development is disconcerting. Even journalists of our own state funded media outlet, CBC, have quit the company over this sort of culture. We should be rightfully concerned over the normalization of cultural and state promoted authoritarianism and what this will mean for tangible freedom.
Truth leads to freedom because unhindered by lies we can better our lives in light of the truth.
However, given the news and politics we shouldn’t stop believing everything or to believe the opposite as some are inclined to do or embrace conspiracy theories. We must remember that thinking is part of God’s common grace (c.f. Mt 5:45), a non-saving gift to all (or most!) of mankind. For example, even though we may disagree with someone’s worldview in country X,Y, or Z we may still trust that the product they produce can be worn, eaten, driven or used.
I encourage people to do a number of things: diversify the sources that you read for your news and think about what is presented (I read many of the major global news networks). Also ask good questions like what are the facts? are the sources trustworthy? am I approaching this subject in an unbiased way? am I thinking about it logically? Am I really interested in the truth?
We’ll find a measure of freedom in these two things.
More importantly, let’s return to that quote from Jesus and see what true truth is and how to find real freedom. Here is John 8:31–32:
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
When we come to believe the ultimate truth, our Creator Jesus, and accept Him as Lord and Saviour then we are freed spiritually from the bondage to sin and the lies of the enemy. Not only is our soul freed but our mind; we gain a new worldview to see things rightly through the lens of Scripture. This is all very liberating.
The irony is that those who may be physically free in this world (free media, free countries) may indeed be spiritually enslaved, and those who are physically oppressed and enslaved (c.f. a Christian in a North Korean work camp) are actually spiritually free.
Freedom is important. The freedoms we enjoy in the West are a result of Christian influences. However, the greatest freedom we can possess is the freedom of our soul, a freedom that no one can take away.
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