“[Y]ou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. . . . ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” as their Word of the Year for 2016, an adjective that values emotion and personal belief over fact. Last November, Stanford University released a study that sampled 7,800 middle school through college students in the United States and assessed their ability to distinguish credible news from fake news online. Researchers said they were “shocked” by how many students were utterly unable to evaluate whether the information was credible.
Even more worrying is how fake news, like a wild fire, is spread through social media. Sharing misinformation is just one easy click away. People who share a fake story lend credibility to it among their “trusted” friends, and those friends share it with their friends, and soon a multitude of individuals is sucked into a vortex of lies and deceit.
Another scripture passage comes to mind: “[L]ook at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits” (James 3: 4-5).
Perhaps Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity prayer” needs some adjustment for our times: “God, grant me wisdom to discern truth, courage to challenge deceit, and the serenity to do so faithfully.”
In a world in which we are assaulted daily by tsunami waves of opinion, information and misinformation, it’s tough to discern truth. The world seems a dark place. But what if, as social activist and storyteller Valery Kaur says, “This is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb”?
What if the challenges before us represent the labour of God birthing us into a new reality? Consider the hundreds of thousands of women—and men—around the world who marched for justice and equality on Jan. 21, 2017. They marched peacefully. Has such an event ever occurred before? What a symbol of hope! (See “Canadians join Women’s March on Washington.”)
This, more than ever, is a time to let love shine. As we struggle through the misinformation mire, let’s focus on the commandments that Jesus deemed most important: to love God with fullness of being and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Filtering thought, word and action through these commandments is the surest road to truth and light, regardless of any confusion we find along the way.
May the fullness of God’s shalom be yours.
Deborah Froese is director of news services and editor of PrayerNet for Mennonite Church Canada.