*From “Samantha’s Journey Into the Alt-Right and Back” on the 11-22-19 New Yorker podcast.
Who and What do we trust?
When I order decaf coffee in a restaurant, I’m trusting servers with my sleep patterns.
When I take a Lyft from point A to point B, I’m trusting a stranger with my safety.
When my second grade teacher taught me that the first Thanksgiving involved people in Pilgrim hats eating side by side with Indians in peace, I trusted her to share real history.
When I read in 2019 that – actually – the Wampanoags were enslaved and murdered by the English settlers in 1621 and that Myles Standish beheaded a Native man named Wituwamat and displayed his head on a spike for many years, I trust that the writers of these articles are sharing the real history.
Or are they?
Trust isn’t everything but it’s a lot. I depend every day on people trusting me in my work as a professional minister. Either people trust me or they don’t as I do background checks on other pastors or counsel church leaders through conflicts.
Today we seem to trust each other sparingly. People who get their news from Fox and people who get their news from MSNBC do not trust each other in terms of political “facts.” And why would anyone trust church leaders when stories of misconduct are rampant?
Samantha – the woman who left the Alt-Right in The New Yorker podcast noted above – is a great example of someone whose understanding of what is true and what is not true can be molded by people whose “truth” is based on ignorance and bigotry.
What is our truth based on? (We tend to be lazy fact checkers.)
Do your research.
If someone tells you that the Holocaust never happened or Christopher Columbus was a good guy or enslaved people were happy to be enslaved, please read legitimate historians about these things. Note the authorship of your news sources. Are they independent journalists or television personalities? Is our intake of information one-sided?
In whom or in what do we trust? Discernment requires effort.
Image the book A Lot of People are Saying: The New Conspiracism and The Assault on Democracy by Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum which is a good but depressing read. When someone tells you that “people are saying ____” without identifying what people, check their sources.
PS Today is Giving Tuesday. Give generously to organizations you trust.