As we head further into 2018 one of the things that seems set to continue and dominate our lives is the issue of what is ‘real true news’ and what is ‘fake untrue news’.
In the past, things did seem to be somewhat easier didn’t they! For example, words had particular objective meanings understood by all, and not just subjective in the ear of the hearer. With regard to newspapers, as another example, whilst they have always had particular allegiances for their audiences (political, moral, social, and cultural) they all did more clearly distinguish between news in the front sections, and opinions in the back sections! In contrast today, there seems to a great blurring of the two, and of course, social media has re-enforced this approach where what we read is not often ‘direct observation news’ from those present at an event, but more personal and subjective opinions on just other people’s opinions!
Although there has never been a time when one was able to perfectly distinguish between the real story; an aspect of the story; an opinion on the story; or at an extreme, ‘propaganda’ or even a lie about a story to convince us of something else;…..we do seem to be living in an increasingly puzzling world that seems to have no bearings, be going around in circles with no idea of where to head in terms of what is right or wrong, true of false, real or fake! So, a key question for 2018 is I think this: where can we find and read the real news? How can we distinguish real true news from untrue fake news?
A core belief of Christians is that we cannot find or know truth on our own devices e.g., through just our own learning and experiences, but only by God giving us and helping us with the truth. Pontius Pilate famously asked Jesus the question ‘what is truth?’ The answer of Jesus and that the Bible gives, is that Jesus, being God in human form, is truth in person, truth in action and truth in teaching: ‘Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness’ (John 1); ‘I am the way the truth and the life’ (John 3); ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness’ (John 8).
Jesus, is he part of ‘fake untrue news’ or ‘real true news’? On the objective evidence of the reliable historical records (the bible ‘on the ground’ witness accounts of Matthew Mark Luke and John) Jesus is the greatest real news story which has ever happened and makes sense in fact of all the other news in the world. The historical event of God coming to earth in human form, living a perfect life and dying to save the world changed the course of history and in the light of which we can see what is really news or not.
In summary, my point is this: that if you can find some time to read the bible, in it you will find the most important truthful news of history; find truth that will help you in your own personal situation; and give you eyes to see what is the news going on around you is truthful or not. And what is the kind of real news that matters to God? It is not the constant news of human politics or economics about which we get so obsessed and worried, but the news of how God’s kingdom is coming into people’s lives to help change them and so the world from the ground up: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness gentleness and self-control. (Colossians 2v22-23). It is good to read the newspaper and go on social media to keep abreast of news as best we can, but if we can read the bible just as much, it will reveal to us real news and what is likely to be not news at all.
With my prayers and blessings for February
Revd James Hunt
Rector St Peter’s Bishops Waltham and Blessed Mary Upham
1st February 2018