In These Confusing Times of #AlternativeFacts
The role of the religious community to educate and activate
In a time when our airwaves are increasingly being filled with alternative facts, I find myself grateful to the churches I’ve attended for filling my head with #realfacts.
Grateful, even when #realfacts disorient me by challenging my world view. Realfacts can hit hard.
I still remember one “real fact attack” sitting in the almost blindingly white paneled Fellowship Hall of Wyoming Presbyterian Church. I learned about the daily discrimination the Palestinians endure on the West Bank for the first time in 2010.
I sat dumbstruck, like my fellow churchgoers, thinking“This does not compute Will Robinson!” It was like I was experiencing a migraine aura, where everything you feel, see and hear shifts and becomes distorted.
How could I not know about the Palestinian side of the issue, or frankly, that there even was a legitimate Palestinian point-of-view? Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s the only thing I knew about Palestinians was the Palestinian Liberation Organization or PLO.
How could this happen? I read the New York Times for Gods sake! Surely living in a Blue State meant I was knowledgeable about any major humanitarian crisis in the world. My self-conception as an educated and caring person took a beating that day.
But these “I can’t believe this is real” moments happen even to the professionally well-informed. Kevin Bales, global expert on slavery, talks about a experiencing a similar hot white flash of disbelief when first confronted with the fact that slavery still existed. In his YouTube video he tells his audience, “How can I be, like a hot shot young full professor who teaches human rights and not know this, so it can’t be true.” Church Lady was lucky enough to hear Kevin speak recently, read “The Good News About Slavery” to learn more about the #realfacts of slavery.
In the church adult education class on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict at Wyoming Presbyterian, we saw video after video of centuries old olive trees being bulldozed. We heard story upon story of ambulances detained at checkpoints with devastating consequences. The Palestinian crisis was beginning to feel real to me.
Our education series also included talks from two Jewish American activists, Anna Baltzer and Mark Braverman. Both returned to the US stunned after visits to Israel, having witnessed first hand how Palestinians were treated. As Anna Baltzer recounts in her blog:
“Not believing what I heard, I decided to do some research to prove myself right. Immediately, I was shocked to find how much I didn’t know about the situation on the ground. Not knowing who or what to believe anymore, I decided to go to see the situation with my own eyes.
Mark Braverman took a similar journey, which can be seen on YouTube.
In popular culture, pairing Church and #realfacts may seem like an oxymoron, almost crazy talk! Certainly, there are many #realfacts about religious institutions behaving badly. Just because you are in church doesn’t mean you can believe everything you hear. In fact many Protestant dominations encourage active questioning of one’s faith.
For me, church has opened my eyes to what is going on in the world in a way that no newspaper or cable news ever has (well, okay maybe the Daily Show came close).
I’ve broken bread with Haitians, Syrians, Sierra Leoneans and Essex County homeless. I’ve developed friendships with asylum seekers from Ghana and Ethiopia. I’ve met people who have dedicated their lives to saving the environment, standing up for justice, promoting education for all and conquering food deserts.
So in these times of #alternativefacts, I’ll be keeping my eyes wide open and relying on the faith community to help me parse the #realfacts from the #alternativefacts. And maybe more important, help me keep the faith that we will get through this time of #alternativefacts.