Selecting the word of the year is a self-assigned role of the Oxford University Press. The word for 2016 is “post-truth,” meaning “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In other words, truth is less important than how you feel about it.
They cite the Brexit vote and the U.S. election as evidence, which might be a bit ideological, implying that facts were ignored. The raw campaign rhetoric makes me disinclined to stand for office since, well, I shoo my cat off the kitchen table. My opponent could claim I hate furry pets and should be locked up as an animal molester. Not much less absurd than post-truth spin from the 2016 campaigns.
The first time I noticed post-truth was Dan Rather’s blunder that led to his resignation from CBS in 2004. While acknowledging the false evidence behind his story about George Bush’s National Guard record, he insisted “that didn’t change the truth of what we reported.” Unproven belief became truth.
Response to science can be post-truth. Medicine tells us that a fetus is alive, genetically independent, and human, yet only her mother is a person with inalienable rights to life. Cosmogony offers interesting hypotheses for the origins of the universe, yet the evidence of an intelligent First Source must not be considered.
Apparently a culture disconnected from truth is intolerant, assumes evil motives, and prefers ad hominem over constructive disagreement. It claims to be pluralistic, embracing all truths and voices. Yet without realizing the illogic, it excludes those who know contradictory claims can’t all be true. If disagreement means harm and requires safe spaces, we are raising a crippled generation unable to think critically. For our own good, the Bible urges us not to mistake the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25).
Vince Vitale, Director of the Zacharias Institute, observed that since Jesus is the truth (Jn. 14:6) and God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), then truth is love. One implication is that withholding truth to avoid a disagreement is not loving, and neither is a caustic argument about it. Disagreements can be loving and respectful. “Do not let kindness and truth leave you…write them on the tablet of your heart” (Pr. 3:3).
The truth matters about our world, our country, and ourselves. You can spin, twist, bend, and bury the truth, which is what happened to Jesus. Yet the truth lives to set you free from whatever binds you from the life and eternity God planned for you. He has revealed truth in creation, in the Bible, and in our Savior, Jesus Christ. We who embrace faith in the only One who makes sense of this world can never be post-truth.