I understand that passions are at an extreme high right now. I also understand that the political conversation space is over-saturated and at this point, simply exhausting. I also understand that my voice has little to offer the conversation and even if it did, very few people are still forming opinions.
So I’m going to address just one concern and direct it specifically to Christians:
However angry or scared you are right now, your love for truth must be greater than your party, your political pre-commitments, and your agenda. You have an ethical responsibility to be a truth-lover.
That has several implications:
Truth-lovers realize that words are ethical.
There’s a reason we don’t give driver’s licenses to 12-year-olds—vehicles have the power to injure and kill. We wait until someone can at least recognize the gravity of that before we dare put a wheel in their hands.
Unfortunately, people fail to grasp the moral responsibility they hold in their words. Communication is never ethically neutral. Words do things. They have the power to create thoughts, emotions, and responses in human brains. When your words create harm, you are culpable. A very wise man once said, “by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” I recommend taking Him seriously.
Truth-lovers double-check their facts before they post.
Too many Christians have an operative relationship to truth that is essentially postmodern. The underlying rationale is that conservatism, fighting abortion, resisting the progressive agenda and so on, are self-justifying ends. So far, so good. But from there, we disregard the means, simply throwing arguments into the wind without concern, so long as they lead to the conclusions we want.
That’s dishonest and wrong. But what might be less obvious is that you are likewise guilty of truth perversion when you broadcast ideas and purported information without taking the time to carefully vet them. You have a moral responsibility to double-check before you share. If or when what you share proves not to be true, you have an ethical responsibility to apologize and take it down.
Truth-lovers don’t speak of possibilities as realities.
In fever pitch debate when the stakes are high, we’re tempted to cut corners so long as the conclusions lead to what we’re already sure is true. And so at the very moment when our words matter most, we lower the evidential standards. We accept memes and headlines as fact without investigating or cross-checking the claims. We affirm, trust, and repeat the words of people who are not truth-tellers themselves. In so doing, we become partakers in their sin. Worst, we do it in the name of defending truth. This is not the ethical high road.
Truth-lovers question their assumptions and their sources.
It’s self-evident now that the American electorate is cleft into opposite extremes that demonize and caricature one another instead of working towards understanding. There’s relatively little that can be done about it at this point—not at least until emotions cool a little.
But it’s also self-evident that much of this is due to the information sources people consume. In contemporary speak, it’s confirmation bias. Or if you’re interested in a little ancient wisdom, it goes like this:
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
If you only consume news sources that agree with your viewpoint, you are not on the path to wisdom. If the truth about our present reality seems patently obvious and clear to you, you don’t understand it yet. If you think that your tribe has the inside scoop that the rest are missing, you are part of the problem.
Some advice. Consume information sources that have a history of handling truth carefully.* Talk to people who disagree with you. And never assume that people who don’t share your angle on the world are clueless.
At the core of Christianity are a book and a person. The book contains the words of God. The Person is the Word of God. Both define truth, exalting it as authoritative and precious.
That means that Jesus-followers and Scripture-readers can’t just play games with words. Said better, they shouldn’t. They must not.
But all too often they do. Now is the time to say no. Now is the time to think, check, reconsider, and speak carefully.
Now is the time to be a truth-lover.
* Specifically, I would strongly recommend The Wall Street Journal and National Review as sources that are quite conservative but have a record of careful reporting. Moving a bit more centrist, I love and subscribe to The Economist.