Shortly after the 2016 election, the actor Denzel Washington was attending a screening of his movie “Fences.” On the red carpet a reporter asked him about a news account claiming that he had switched his vote from Clinton to Trump.
He responded, “If you don’t read the news you’re uninformed. If you read the news you are misinformed.”
He observed that all news outlets, regardless of their political perspective, share one overriding concern. They have to sell their product.
Nothing sells quite like being first. Unfortunately, rushing to be first can come at the cost of thorough fact-checking. That’s when truth becomes a casualty to the pursuit of media profits.
I’m not saying any of this to demonize the media. Their role in the democratic process is crucial. And there are excellent reporters and newscasters of both the progressive and the conservative sort.
However, we find ourselves in the midst of what many have called a crisis of truth.
Some individuals and some platforms say things on the web, on the radio, and on cable in order to attract an audience, to foment dissension, or to push an agenda. They don’t let truth get in the way of achieving their main goal.
Among the toxic effects of this crisis of truth is a rise in cynicism. If most everybody is out to get it over on you, only a sucker will fall for facts that they don’t already accept. Some new and promising take on things is likely to be just one more con job.
This situation presents an especially difficult challenge to followers of Jesus. After all, we are in the Good News business: the news that God loves you personally—God loves each of us and all of us personally—no matter what.
Our aim is to do more than tell people that God loves them. We strive to help them see this and feel this for themselves. That experience is what mends lives and restores relationships.
When we know ourselves as the beloved we walk this planet in whole new way. And we can change this world.
So we Christians need to consider how to help others get to the truth in a way that changes hearts and minds at a time when hearts and minds are wary and resistant.
The apostle Paul is especially helpful with this. He urges us to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) Contrary to what some seem to think, he’s not giving us permission to give other people a piece of our mind so long as we follow it up with “Bless your heart.”
He’s telling us that we can’t rely primarily on words to help others get to the truth that God loves them. Instead, we spread the truth about God’s love by loving.
Listen to what Paul says about his ministry to the people in Corinth. “I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
The love we share is not merely our own feelings or intentions. God’s love overflows from us to our neighbor.
When we forgive, the Spirit is at work. When we feed the hungry, rock a crying baby, visit the lonely, shelter the homeless, welcome a stranger. The Spirit is at work. That’s the power of love.
Paul is a mixed bag. His letters can be harsh and time-bound about various specifics. And yet, when he talks about love, he reaches soaring heights. Later in the same letter to the Corinthians he writes,
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
That is the love that gets us to the truth.