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Post-Modern Politics: Truth on the Altar of Power

Not everyone has the same level of interest in politics that I have. For me, a presidential campaign and election cycle is like the World Series or the Super Bowl of politics—I just can’t get enough of hearing from politicians and their surrogates and the pundits in the press as they all have lots of time in front of the cameras in the final weeks before the election in early November. To use a different sports analogy, watching politics during this intense period is much like watching a NASCAR race—lots of action but, quite honestly, we’re mostly just waiting for something crazy to happen.

But I also find the political discourse to be truly distressing, right down to the bottom of my soul. As one who values truth and who loves this Gutenberg community because of the incredible commitment to truth, particularly in the realm of biblical study, I alternate between anger, tears, and even fear when I see how callously truth is cast aside for the sake of political expediency and ascendancy.

Recently, I was listening to a talk that Jack Crabtreee gave several years ago on “The Objective Reality of God” using Hebrews 11:6 as a touchstone. While it is always tricky for one to try to re-state just what Jack was trying to say, I think that the essence of it is that, as we can see from Hebrews 11:6, the Bible recognizes and affirms that some things are simply true and must be believed as a starting point. They are not variable depending on the religious perspective or the personal perspective or anything like that. I don’t have one truth on a matter, and you have another. I don’t have one accurate interpretation of a passage, and you have a completely different “accurate” interpretation. Different religions are not simply equally real and truthful understandings of God and ultimate reality. Truth is truth.

In the talk, Jack made a comment about post-modernism to help provide some context and background for his observations. Now, I must admit, I still struggle with understanding just what post-modernism is all about even though we talk about it all the time around here. So Jack’s description, which I’m sure was not intended to be exhaustive, was very helpful. I tried to write it down pretty much verbatim from around the seven-minute mark of the talk. He described a post-modernist thusly: “A person who believes that what YOU believe just IS reality to you. There is no such thing as any belief, any story, any narrative corresponding to the way it REALLY is. There is no way it REALLY is. There’s only the way you see it.” You kind of need to hear the vocal inflections to really get the gist of it, but basically he was saying that, for a post-modernist, truth ends up being whatever that individual wants/needs/chooses it to be to fit his situation or life story or experience or goals. Thus post-modernists are not rooted in the sort of objective reality that finds its source in God and God’s ordering of the entire created order. So truth can mean very different things to post-modernists.

Now back to this political silly season. I am a news junkie. If a politician or a representative or a surrogate is saying something noteworthy or important on a given day, then I almost certainly know about it and have probably watched, heard, or read the pertinent quotes. I have watched more debates this year, going back to the primaries, than I care to remember. I watch press conferences when possible and read articles and listen to interviews constantly.

And if there is anything that is glaringly true, it is that different people, on different sides of an issue, simply don’t hesitate to firmly and unambiguously assert the veracity of what they are saying while implying or outright accusing those on the other side of lying. Right this minute, paused on my TV, is David Axelrod insisting that Chris Wallace simply is not accurately representing what Chris heard, with his own ears, last week in congressional hearings and in the vice-presidential debate and in press briefings, etc., etc. It simply doesn’t matter if one replays comments in their context. Someone will be quick to spin things and insist that what you thought you heard is not really what was said; and next he will completely reframe the comments, often giving them a meaning that is exactly the opposite of what was intended in the first place.

All this for the sake of power—political power. Truth is a casualty when the prize is power—a political office with all of the prestige and perks and privilege and other “p” words that go along with it.

Now at this point it would be easy for me to say blithely, “All politicians are liars.” But that comment itself would be an affront to truthfulness. I’m not suggesting that any politician or political party has an unblemished record for speaking truth. And I think that I have a realistic enough view of human nature to know that even the most honest amongst the political class will be tempted to shade the truth from time to time.

But I do believe that some politicians are decidedly more careful about being accurate and truthful about what they say and how they communicate. And I also believe that some politicians and surrogates and advocates simply, absolutely, and distressingly have not a single qualm or hesitation about saying whatever they need to say to advance their agenda, pursue power, and protect their position. On the one hand, some put a premium on being careful to uphold truth in the sense that Jack was talking about almost a decade ago. But others will allow for a “truth” that simply fits the narrative that they wish to advance, even if it has no connection to reality, even if it is something that God, in His heaven, would not hesitate to condemn as a lie.

It is incumbent upon us, given the God-ordained system of government under which we live, to prayerfully and thoughtfully seek to elect those people whom we believe to be most committed to truth, to a worldview that most accurately reflects a biblical perspective on morality and the nature of man and the role of government in society.

No problem huh? Let’s get at it!

 

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