Many have commented that we are in a post-truth society following the election of Donald Trump it. In fact, ‘post-truth’ has been named the word of the year by year by the Oxford Dictionaries. The idea is that truth has become irrelevant. Politicians lie. We know they lie. They don’t care. We say we care but seem to do little about it.
Trump confounded the pollsters and the pundits in securing victory in a bruising and often offensive US election campaign which lacked truth on all sides. He made disgraceful comments about sexually assaulting women, mocked the disabled, and attacked the Latino community and other minorities. But he also won, tapping into the frustrations of many who felt left behind economically and excluded socially.
Trump appears to have exploited a vacuum rather than articulate a clear vision going forward. The difficult job now begins of both moderating and delivering on some of the promises that were made to the electorate. Expectations and trepidation will be equally high.
Polling shows that 81% of white evangelicals supported Trump. The main reasons seems to have been around the appointment of pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. America has aborted 60 million babies following Roe v Wade and for many this is the defining issue of justice and dignity. Trump has moved from previously supporting abortion to more pro-life position and many were reassured by Vice President elect Mike Pense’s much clearer pro-life position.
The reaction of evangelicals here to the result has been mixed. Some are embarrassed to be associated with a campaign fuelled by misogyny, fear and mistrust. Others will have sympathy for Jeremy Paxman who described Hillary as quote; “a machine-washable politician who’s come out of some Tupperware catalogue”.
It appears the liberal agenda of choice, autonomy and supposed progress was been halted for now by the tightest of margins. The question is whether President Trump can find common ground between seemingly disparate sides and deliver on relationships, community and tradition.
Both Trump and Clinton were gracious in their speeches, but it will take more than words to heal the social divisions that were exploited during the election.
Post modernism describes the idea in which there is apparently no such thing as absolute truth and everyone just has their own story or truth. Christians have always cautioned about where this leads - when there is no truth, language loses meaning, marriage can be redefined, the beginning and end of life blurred, people are categorised and boxed by an equalities agenda, rights are separated from responsibilities, trust disappears and community disintegrates.
This is nothing new as John 18 reminds us when Pilate and Jesus discuss truth and Pilate, arguably the first post-modernist asks, “What is truth?”
Politicians with a loose understanding of the truth can wash their hands of all sorts of things. We live in a world of increasing fragmentation, and a political environment that exploits division for political gain. This election result is important, but communities are changed one life at a time by churches and organisations committed to the long haul.
Now, more than ever, we must be peacemakers in our world, people who will seek justice and mercy, stand with the marginalised and people who are not afraid to speak truth to power.
Peter Lynas is director of the Evangelical Alliance NI