Washington DC: October 9, 2017. (Jim Denison) Vice President Mike Pence walked out of yesterday’s San Francisco 49ers–Indianapolis Colts game after several 49ers players knelt during the national anthem. Pence explained, “I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”
Yahoo sportswriter Dan Wetzel called the decision “nothing more than political grandstanding.” By contrast, Fox News commentator Todd Starnes applauded the protest against “NFL malcontents’ boorish behavior.”
In other football news, this report quickly made national headlines yesterday: “Quarterback Colin Kaepernick tells CBS he’ll stand during national anthem if given chance to play football in NFL again.” This was news because the former quarterback is credited with starting the trend of kneeling during the national anthem before football games.
Then the CBS reporter who broke the story admitted that he didn’t actually discuss the issue with the player when they spoke and conceded that he does not know what Kaepernick would do during the anthem.
Kaepernick then tweeted: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” crediting the quote to Winston Churchill. However, historians attribute the quote to a variety of sources.
We live in the era of “fake news.” Last year, Politifact designated “fake news” as its “Lie of the Year.” Oxford Dictionaries similarly labeled “post-truth” its “word of the year.” It defined the term as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeal to emotion and personal belief.”
In our relativistic culture, “truth” is whatever you believe it to be. Tolerance is our highest value; “you have no right to force your beliefs on me” is our creed.
Nonetheless, thanks to social media, we can pretend online to be anyone we wish to be. We can speak “our truth” with little accountability or fear of judgment.
Three problems ensue.
The first is logical: To claim that there is no such thing as truth is to make a truth claim. It’s like saying, “There’s no such thing as certainty, and I’m sure of it.”
The second is relational: If we are dishonest about ourselves, we forfeit the love of others. Craig Denison notes in today’s First15: “When we work tirelessly to build up a false self so that we can receive affirmation from others, we never truly experience love. For our false self to be loved is not truly love at all because we constantly have the thought, ‘If they really knew me, they wouldn’t love me.'” People cannot truly love us until they know our true selves.
The third is spiritual: If we pretend to be someone we’re not, we forfeit the favor of God. He cannot bless what does not exist. He loves us where we are, as we are. But we must be honest with him and with ourselves to experience the transforming grace we desperately need.
Jesus gave us the antidote to our “fake news” culture: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).