Post truth

One of the major concerns that was raised about Brexit was that going ahead risked undermining the Good Friday Agreement. One of the requirements of that agreement was that there must never be a hard border on the island of Ireland again. We all know that fact weel don’t we? Except it’s not true. The GFA makes no mention of borders. It talks about Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom for as long as its citizens wished. It talks about setting up devolved government and it talks about cross border liaison. Indeed arguably it is those who have worked hard to separate Northern Ireland off from the rest of the UK that have done the most to undermine the deal.

Yet we’ve learnt to believe a lie.  It’s become part of folklore. That’s not of course the only lie to have been told during Brexit. The most famous example is the claim on the side of the leave campaign’s bus that we send £350 million to Brussels each week and leaving would see that money given to the NHS.

We live in a world where for many years we’ve been told that truth is relative. I’m entitled to my truth and you are not permitted to challenge it.  Can we really be surprised by the consequences.  If truth is relative, if there’s no objective way of determining right and wrong then can we be surprised that our culture becomes saturated with lies and half truths?

There are other examples of this. Consider the way in which Gordon Brown would frequently make announcements about big spending commitments yet when you checked the detail you discovered that he was simply re-announcing commitments already made. Boris Johnson has followed suit promising 50000 new nurses when a significant proportion of the number weren’t new at all and committing to build new hospitals then redefining that to include new wings and extensions at old hospitals.

We’ve seen a lot of this throughout COVID-19.  On the one hand there hve been the scare story news headlines.  Hardly a day goes by when we are told about a killer super mutant about to hit our shores when the variation has been around for months.  Just the other day I saw a headline announcing that deaths had quadrupled in a week. Even the article itself admitted that this was purely a result of low reported numbers over the bank holiday weekend. At the other extreme COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers saturate social media with their conspiracy theories. These stories are designed to undermine trust in science, reason and institutions.

That’s what happens when you make truth relative. The first casualty of postmodernism is trust and with trust goes relationship.  We cannot be surprised that people lie.  We cannot complain if Pilate’s question “what is truth” has become the dominant theme of our age. We as a culture opened that pandora’s box.

Scripture on the other hand tells us not to bear false witness. For God’s people truth matters. There is objective truth and with it right and wrong.  We can believe in truth because we believe in the God who speaks and that God is truth, he is holy, just and right. His words are without error and trustworthy.

Ephesians 5:1 talks about us being imitators of God because we are his children.  We should do so by committing to truth. This will set us apart from the children of the father of lies.