Word of the Year 21016: post-truth

I burned my right thumb pretty bad preparing our Christmas dinner. I poured water in a hot frying pan only to have the steam peel my skin off. Not that my mother told me a thousand times that the stove was hot. Growing up I knew better and touched it and got burnt, and touched it and got burnt, and touched it and got burnt anyway. There is a simple truth: When you touch a hot stove you get burnt. Problem is the world is not that simple anymore.

Oxford dictionaries named “post-truth” Word of the Year 2016. The choice speaks to a crisis of mutual understanding of the world. There used to be a shared acceptance of truth. That meant that an overwhelming majority of people agreed on what used to be called “facts”. The truth has not changed. Overwhelming majorities may have shifted but they are still there. What has changed is that every opinion is now valued as much as the next one. That means that in the USA with our over 300 million people we have over 300 million truths. Everybody is free to make their own meaning regardless of the underlying hard facts of reality. What matters is what you think, not what is, or so we tell ourselves.

Since the world is growing ever more complex and complicated, the majority of people seems to throw the hands in the air and give up on facts altogether. People share on social media what feels right, or looks pleasant to them. With the power of Google, Snopes, and the like, fact-checking is so easy but why bother? That’s nothing new by the way. When Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to death he could only ask, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Everybody told him Jesus needed to be killed, yet he couldn’t find a crime. A few chapters earlier Jesus states: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). Now that would be easy. What if the truth were just walking around for everybody to see, as a person of flesh and blood? While Christ is the truth we do have the problem that he ascended to heaven and we cannot see the truth born in flesh walk among us.

The challenge comes from Christ who is the truth. There is objective truth. When you touch a hot stove you get burnt. Not caring about facts does not make the blisters go away. But probably 2016 was the year of emotional backlash. We have been governed by reason for a long time. Eventually the pendulum will swing back to the golden median where facts are facts, and opinions are opinions, and feelings are feelings. In the meantime: May God grant me the serenity to accept people within the context of their own realities, the courage to stand for the truth where I can, and the wisdom to strike the right balance.


Change is the only thing that remains constant

Last week I wrote about the concept of time. Let’s stick with that another week because fall is in the air! How do I know that: Well, it is cooler and we are in that period between Labor Day and the September equinox both of which are commonly used to determine the beginning of fall. On a personal level people talk about the fall season of their lives either when the kids move out of the house or when they retire.

I like fall because it is easier to spend time outdoors. And the prospect of a quiet house and more free time sounds appealing as well. But in reality retirement is not as calm as people usually expect it to be and an empty nest can feel pretty lonely. Every season has its advantages and downsides. Here is the good news: Every season is just that: a season. This too shall pass. All aspects of life go through cycles: Relationships, finances, and yes, also faith expressions.

A lot of times churches tell themselves that they need to have the biggest and greatest children’s ministry because young families are the future of the church. Don’t get me wrong here: I am one of the strongest proponents of youth and children’s programs, but: I am not interested in a church that focuses on young families. I love the church when it has something for everyone. Here is a radical suggestion for people who are church shopping: Don’t look at the congregation that you visit only from the angle of how it fits into your life right now. Also consider how it will serve you in the fall season of your life: Are you confident they will provide the best memorial service at your death?

Yes, I know I am a dinosaur of pastor that actually still believes in this old-fashioned church model of cradle to grave. Only if there is something in it for everyone can it be relevant to all the people in all their ever changing seasons of life. “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.” as Martin Luther said.


Twitter as your News Source

If you are anything like most people you think you are nothing like most people. Also you may want to find one of the most convenient ways to access all the news you want in a one-stop-shop across a variety of devices (smartphone, computer and tablet).

You may say: I’m on Facebook and I don’t need another social network. Well, depends on your definition of “social”. To me Facebook is about the “Who?” whereas Twitter is about the “What?”.
As for News: On Facebook I don’t learn about news but I learn about my friends’ reaction to them. That has social value for me but may not always be news.

If you can admit to being anything like most people you may be able to find something that fits your needs among Android’s Top 4 free news apps:
1. Flipboard
2. CNN
3. FOX News
Disregarding Number 1 – which really is more of a social aggregator than a news app – you will recognize three major media outlets that you know from TV, Radio and print. That means you could visit their websites on your computer and have their respective apps installed on your respective devices.

Or: You can use Twitter for all of the above.
If you were to follow CNN Breaking News @cnnbrk, Fox News @foxnews and USA TODAY @usatoday on Twitter you could easily follow everything that interests the most people without multiple installations and having to go to websites all the time. It is just conveniently delivered to your twitter feed. Be aware though: Twitter is just as social as Facebook: your friends are there and will follow you. You may end up engaging with them over there and it will be different from what you do on Facebook. Also Twitter gives you more opportunities to follow decision makers and stars more directly. Just look at whom I am following. And also please follow me @danielhaas


America, You Sexy Bitch

America, You Sexy Bitch is not a book. Based on the #twitterrelationship between @McCainBlogette and @michaelianblack it is a road trip project that should lead to a movie.

Two people that are very different take you along on a crazy ride all over the US. Quite truthfully I only wanted to review the whole thing mostly because of their stop in Salt Lake City, Utah, so close to my home. Here is how @michaelianblack sums it up: “SLC is LDS, and being there can make you feel like you are on LSD.” What unravels from there is a wonderful almost classic road trip movie. Oh, wait, it’s just on paper. Anyway, they should make a movie out of it because the landscapes and people are so real.

The whole #twitterrelationship could be summed up by listing all the #hashtags and #twitterhandles they encounter along the way. Luckily Meghan McCain and Michael Ian Black do agree on a shortlist of their whole trip which starts with Las Vegas strippers:

Vegas Lap Dances: McCain and Black’s Strip Club Stories from Commonwealth Club on

In Branson, Missouri, they didn’t find ultimate love but a truely shocking experience:

In Memphis, Tennessee, Meghan McCain tweeted “Michael and I have relocated to Graceland” whereas he had more mundane desires:

Ultimately a lot revolves around Ian Michael Black being scared of @SenJohnMcCain. And one of the climaxes toward the end of the journey is a dinner with this group:

Go ahead, buy the book, it is a very enjoyable read until the movie comes out:


Twitter with less censorship

Twitterwitter recently added the option of withholding content in specific countries, while keeping that content available for the rest of the world. There has been a lot of outrage about what is allegedly censorship.

Now please give the folks at Twitter a break, in reality there is going to be less censorship:
“Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally.” Now deletes will be limited to countries that “for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.”
Now what’s wrong with that?