Post-truth. Alternative facts. Fake news.
These concepts have dominated much of our cultural conversation over the past few months. This problem is not one that affects only one political party. Fake news sites exist across the political spectrum and politicians on both sides of the aisle often play fast and loose with the facts.
Let’s remember that in campaigning for the Affo
rdable Care Act, President Obama famously said, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.” The Washington Post would later give this political promise the infamous “Four Pinnochios.” The promise was disingenuous at best, and it caught many off guard.
After the campaign of 2016, however, we have seen a renewed interest in truth, facts, and reality. “Fact-checker” has become an actual job. At no previous point in human history would it have made sense to have someone whose job was to check facts. There were certainly those in the political class who checked facts, but this was only part of their job. Now, however, fact-checking has become a profession.
Below the surface of all the political fighting debate lies a bitter irony. The political and social aversion to “facts” that so many on the left decry was set in motion by philosophers on the left more than a generation ago.
Postmodernism rose as a philosophical powerhouse on college and university campuses claiming that truth was relative and that there can be no single reality. For over a generation, professors on many college campuses have taught students that they can have their personal truth and that right and wrong are merely relative ideas. While postmodernism may work for academics in the sterility of a lecture hall, the reaction in the broader culture seems to indicate that most people want it to stay there.
We are witnessing the greatest sustained critique against postmodernism, and it is coming from many who might, under different circumstances, give intellectual ascent. As a society, we are, once again, concerned with truth and facts. And not just “our truth” or “our facts,” but the truth and the facts.
All of the sudden, we believe that the truth and the facts are those things which comport with objective reality. The denouncement of objective reality that so many of us have heard from college professors rings hollow. We see a culture awakening from an anesthetized stupor to the reality that categories of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, are not relics of a bygone age but essential cornerstones for our lives at this moment.
Perhaps no greater object lesson exists. When you set an ideology loose on a generation, it will run its full logical course. But once it has run its course beware, you may not like where it ends. Most postmodernists find themselves dismayed as many of their ideological commitments have been used against their political inclinations.
Christians looking at this development should note the magnitude of this shift and celebrate. While we must still fight for the truth of the Gospel, for the moment, we find ourselves in the midst of people who are awakening to the reality of truth, some for the first time in decades. We stand on the threshold of an exciting cultural moment with the grand opportunity to magnify truth. Let us be found faithful.