A letter for December

We live, we are told, in a “post-truth society”. So much so that the Oxford English Dictionary has chosen “post-truth” as its Word of the Year for 2016. Having been in use since at least 1992, “post-truth” showed a 2000% jump in published usage following the campaign to leave the EU in June, and more after the US presidential election campaign.

It seems these days that some public figures, especially politicians, can make claims which bear no relation to actual facts – commonly called “lying” – and still be believed. Somehow, many people would rather believe an obvious lie which supports their prejudices than face the risk of having to change their minds.

This is hardly new: in 1710, Jonathan Swift wrote “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect”

Jesus had a thing or two to say about truth and lies: he said the Devil “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

And of himself Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

We are approaching Christmas when we remember Jesus born to be the light of the world – a light which leaves darkness with nowhere to hide.

Let’s enjoy all the trappings – I’m very partial to a mince pie myself – but let’s not forget why Jesus was here. Let’s refuse to be fed lies by our politicians and media, but instead hold them to a higher standard. Let’s refuse to collude with dealers in “post-truth”, but instead insist on looking for truth, even when that means we need to change ourselves, which is always uncomfortable.

Let’s remember, in the words of John’s Gospel, that in the baby at Bethlehem “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

[Written for the parish magazines of the Papworth Team Ministry]