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Pastor of Morrow Presbyterian Church
John V. Callahan Jr.
The Pastor’s Pen
Read Deuteronomy 32:11-12 and Hebrews 12:3-11
Pope Francis has given something to think about this Lent. He wrote a letter1 to the nations that deals with a disturbing issue that has plagued us only in the last year. It is called “fake news.”
“Communication is part of God’s plan for us and an essential way to experience fellowship,” Pope Francis says. “Made in the image and likeness of our Creator, we are able to express and share all that is true, good, and beautiful. We are able to describe our own experiences and the world around us, and thus to create historical memory and the understanding of events. But when we yield to our own pride and selfishness, we can also distort the way we use our ability to communicate.”
He then goes on to say what “fake news” is: “In general, it refers to the spreading of disinformation on line or in the traditional media. It has to do with false information based on non-existent or distorted data meant to deceive and manipulate the reader. Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests.”
“Fake news” comes out of our pride and selfishness. It does not come to the surface in order to discover what is true – “the tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict,” Pope Francis says.
Fyodor Dostoevsky is quoted from his book The Brothers Karamazov: “People who lie to themselves and listen to their own lie come to such a pass that they cannot distinguish the truth within them, or around them, and so lose all respect for themselves and for others. And having no respect, they cease to love, and in order to occupy and distract themselves without love they give way to passions and to coarse pleasures, and sink to bestiality in their vices, all from continual lying to others and to themselves.”
So, what shall we reflect upon during this season of Lent? Pope Francis is concerned with truth, and God’s honest truth. “So how do we defend ourselves? The most radical antidote to the virus of falsehood is purification by the truth. In Christianity, truth is not just a conceptual reality that regards how we judge things, defining them as true or false. The truth is not just bringing to light things that are concealed… Truth involves our whole life. In the Bible, it carries with it the sense of support, solidity, and trust, as implied by the [Hebrew] root 'aman, the source of our liturgical expression Amen.
“Truth is something you can lean on, so as not to fall. In this relational sense, the only truly reliable and trustworthy One – the One on whom we can count – is the living God. Hence, Jesus can say: ‘I am the truth’ (Jn 14:6). We discover and rediscover the truth when we experience it within ourselves in the loyalty and trustworthiness of the One who loves us. This alone can liberate us: ‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32).”
Certain people will say in the mike or tweet, “Fake news!” “To discern the truth,” Pope Francis says, “we need to discern everything that encourages communion and promotes goodness from whatever instead tends to isolate, divide, and oppose.” If a person screaming “Fake News!” is not encouraging communion and promoting goodness, then we do not listen to him. If people want to remain attached to those who can only scream, “Fake news,” then we must walk away for we will not fall in the trap of lying to others or ourselves.
We are God’s people (“image and likeness”). We are called to share the truth of God’s love and salvation. Forgiveness and everlasting life is offered to all who would be humble and believe. There is nothing fake about that.
Peace in Christ,
Rev. Dr. John
1 It is rather long, so I am only highlighting a few points from it (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-01/pope-world-communications-day-message-2018-truth-journalism-fake.html).