When I graduated from university, I landed a job working for a TV show. It was an exciting time, a big move to London, my first real house and a proper job, surrounded by all the glitz (and drama) that came with live TV. I spent my mornings on set, running about, checking all my guests were ok. And afternoons were spent on the phone, surrounded by mounds of paperwork, as I (frantically) booked travel arrangements for guests for the following day’s show. First job out of uni. I couldn’t believe how cool I was (or so I thought).
One afternoon, after a really busy show, my phone rang and it was a journalist from a national newspaper.
Now, in my defence, it wasn’t my job to speak to journalists. I was way too new and inexperienced for that, but somehow she’d been put through to me, wanting a comment about some guests we’d had on the show.
I told the journalist that I needed to put her through to the PR team (I knew that much!) and she laughed and said ‘ok’, but then asked me (conversationally) what I thought about the guests and what they were like. Me, not realising (with all the extreme green-ness of a newbie) that this was still ‘on the record’, chatted away and told her what it was like to work with them.
I then put the call through to the PR team but the damage was already done. The story ran the next day, with all my ‘off-the-record’ comments printed as an ‘official statement’ from a ‘spokesperson’. Oh, the horror.
This was my first, sharp insight into how the world of journalism works. I’ve learned a lot since about the power of press and communications and I know that sometimes, newspapers decide what the story will be, long before they interview anyone. They know what their audience wants. And they know what sells.
And through this, slowly they can shape what we think too. As George Monbiot said; ‘He who tells the stories, runs the world’. And at the moment, we are surrounded and saturated every day with messages from all across the media.
Right now, there’s no doubt that the world is in huge flux with Brexit and the surprise outcome of the US election. People are protesting, Twitter is almost on fire with opinions from both sides of the argument. And in the middle of it all, the truth is often wrapped in a lot of half-truths and misinformation.
I see it almost every day. It’s called ‘the narrative’. It’s the story that a particular newspaper or news outlet wants you to believe. Why? Because if you are their target audience, then the story will provoke some kind of reaction in you (usually anger or distress) and you will then share that with your friends, and by doing so, you’re helping to ‘spread the word’.
So, if you’re standing there, gasping in the crossfire of all this information, is there any way at all to know what the truth is?
Yes, I still believe there is and it’s the immovable, unchangeable Bible. If you ask any commentator, they’ll just tell you that the Bible was written thousands of years ago by people who had no concept of what a contemporary world would face.
But that’s where we differ, because the Bible isn’t a one-off, old, dusty historical record. When it gets touched by the power of God, it comes alive and it definitely has something to say about the issues we face today.
No, it’s not going to tell you who specifically to vote for, or how to think about the environment or how to defeat ISIS, but when we read it, it gives us the unique ability to discern between fact and fiction.
There are many Biblical parallels to events we’re experiencing today.
How did the great Kings of the Old Testament respond when the world as they knew it, descended into chaos?
When presented with lies, how did Solomon know who was telling the truth?
When he was being viciously provoked beyond anything you could imagine, how did Jesus respond?
When the King wanted to kill him and he had an opportunity to get revenge, how did a young David retaliate?
When you read the Bible, with ‘the light switched on’, not only can you see parallels between Biblical events and today, but you also start to develop discernment as to what is truth and what is not.
This means that when I woke up last week and my social news feeds were an odd mixture of rage, horror and joyous celebration at the result of the election, instead of immersing myself in all its drama, I had to first go back to my ‘truth barometer’.
Facebook tells me that the world is doomed. That we’re now on a path to World War 3.
God’s word says that nothing, absolutely nothing can happen unless He first ordains it (could God actually have a plan?).
The TV news tells me that our world is now being led by inexperienced, deeply flawed human beings.
God’s word reminds me, that despite how I may feel about it, we are all flawed, we are all prone to evil, none of us is righteous.
It’s comfortable and easy to believe that some people are worse than me, that their crimes and misdeeds mean that I am a better human being. But I am pretty sure that’s not how God sees us.
He says, none are righteous, not even one of us. But He does say that each one of us, no matter how awful the crime, is capable of being redeemed and used for God’s glory.
And so yes, I read Facebook and Twitter and I watch the BBC and Fox and CNN, but I also read the Bible.
The Bible is my ‘true north’ when it comes to discerning fact from fiction.
It has no agenda, nothing to sell, other than hope and the idea that no matter how bad things get, God can still redeem us.