HomeUncategorizedOPINION: Fact, opinion, faith and truth

OPINION: Fact, opinion, faith and truth

By Sky McCracken

First United Methodist Church

I live in a context that constantly deals with all four of these things.

Complicating this, the Western world is more driven by the individualistic than the holistic, more concerned with what is hands-on than what is spiritual/mystical and cannot be seen, and more driven to want to be in control than to be content.

So you can imagine how difficult it is to sort out what is FACT versus what is OPINION.

The recent news kerfuffle regarding Rupert Murdoch and Fox News has magnified how blurred the lines of fact and opinion are – and how entertainment and profitability are parts of the equation (and, to be sure, neither side of the ideological fence is innocent in this).

As we are beginning to learn, viewership and advertising dollars spoke louder than facts, leading them and encouraging us – even though they knew the truth – to gather more opinions than facts.

That’s nothing new. Being able to separate opinion from fact is hard for us: studies have continually shown that when it comes to any group of people with differing mindsets, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, Baptists or Methodists, Cardinal fans or Cubs fans – all are more likely to think news or media statements are factual when they appeal to their side – even if they are opinions rather than fact.

“But I’ve done my research.” Maybe you did.

Was what you researched fact, or opinion? If you got it off the Net, or someone’s Facebook page, even from a news media source… verifying that as fact can be difficult, if not impossible. If someone tells you, “People are saying…” it is probably wise to consider such – at best – suspect.

Pew Research summed this up quite succinctly in a 2018 article about the matter: “When Americans call a statement factual they overwhelmingly also think it is accurate; they tend to disagree with factual statements they incorrectly label as opinions.”

Psychologists call this confirmation bias. Some politicians and leaders make a lot of hay out of such, truth be damned. It’s a blunt judgment, but Christians call this lying. In this season, the temptation is great to not verify something if it will make your case.

Take these frustrations of today’s reality and then add faith and truth to the equation, and you soon have a strange stew in your bowl to eat. Christians have to rely on faith as much as truth, because we operate in a difficult realm than science.

We cannot prove Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected, but accept such on faith. The scientific method cannot render faith or religion true or false, as science lacks the processes to prove or disprove the existence of God. So belief in Christ?

That’s a proper use of faith. Using the same faith in our favorite news outlet or political party? That might need some examination, given that those realities should be steered by facts and figures, not mere opinions.

I certainly wouldn’t place faith in such. To maintain integrity in my profession, I sometimes have to say, “I don’t know.” I can tell you what my encounters with the Word/Logos, faith, knowledge, prayer, and experience inform me. But I can’t always give you facts – just faith.

All which makes it so much more incumbent of people of faith to use facts whenever possible, lest our credibility suffer. If we cannot be honest about earthly things, how will anyone ever believe us when we tell them about heavenly things?

Sky McCracken is the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Downtown Jackson.

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