Nearly two decades ago, the evangelical mega-ministry Focus on the Family produced a video/teaching series with the title The Truth Project. I’ve watched only the first episode of the series, and that’s all one needs to watch to know the series’ emphasis, which is, as Jesus said, “For this reason I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (John 18:37, emphasis added).
Del Tackett, the series’ presenter, quotes the 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary for his definition of truth: “conformity to fact or reality.” That’s a nice, concise, easy-to-remember definition—although it might be a bit too simple. In an infinite universe that, as most physicists now postulate, consists of at least 10 dimensions, finite beings cannot always determine what is fact or reality.
But in most situations, and for our purpose here, that simple, straightforward definition of truth—conformity to fact or reality—works quite well. We speak truth when our words conform to [observable or verifiable] facts or reality.
On Donald Trump’s inauguration day, January 20, 2017, The Washington Post began officially counting the new president’s statements that failed to conform to facts of reality. (The newspaper’s editors chose to do so because they’d heard candidate Trump make many statements that did not conform to facts or reality.) Now, three and a half years later, Trump has racked up more than 18,000 fibs, fabrications, prevarications, and bullshit-worthy lies.
Many of the president’s most-recent untrue statements have been tied to our current COVID crisis. Most of those crisis-related lies stray from reality so obviously that one must consciously choose to disregard the very plain facts directly before them. Yet, according to a recent poll, 93 percent of Republicans say Trump is doing a great job in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The facts provide a different evaluation of the president’s performance.
· Trump’s predecessors left him a well-researched, comprehensive plan for dealing with a pandemic, but he trashed the plan and fired the nation’s Pandemic Response Team.
· As early as January, Trump was warned of the very real danger posed by the new coronavirus that was sweeping through China and that would soon advance on other nations.
· From January through early March, Trump scoffed at the notion of a worldwide pandemic that might ravage our nation.
· Trump repeatedly praised the benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” in fighting COVID-19, despite repeated warnings from medical experts that no clinical tests had yet proven the drug’s efficacy in fighting the virus.
· Trump ignorantly and irresponsibly suggested the possibility of injecting disinfectants into COVID-19 patients.
· Despite Trump’s claim that the USA leads all other nations in COVID testing, in terms of per-capita tests we lag behind most other highly developed nations.
· The USA makes up just 4.29 percent of the world’s population, but we have more than 25 percent of the world’s COVID-19 deaths and more than a third of the world’s COVID-19 infections.
Added together, those facts paint a picture of our president’s profound failure in dealing with this pandemic, yet 93 percent of Republicans say they believe Trump is doing a great job. And, as most of us know, more than two-thirds of evangelicals are registered Republicans. Taken together, those two stats reveal that a huge portion of evangelicals—a solid majority of them—have chosen to believe obvious lies over verifiable truths. Why this choice? Because they find the lies more appealing than the truth. So much for the evangelical “principle” that spawned The Truth Project.
The late Senator Pat Moynihan was right when he said, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” But it seems that Republicans and evangelicals are attempting to have their own facts—or, as the administration’s screwball spokesperson Kellyanne Conway dubbed them, “alternative facts.” But much worse than merely believing falsehoods, these same federations seek to push for policies based on those falsehoods. The examples are many, but—just from our current discussion of the pandemic—we’ve seen hordes of angry, gun-toting protestors storming state capitals, demanding an end to social-distancing policies. The basis for those protests is the widespread Trumpist falsehood that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the common flu.
Sometimes truth is obvious, plain for all to see. Sometimes truth is not so easily discernible and requires interpretation. When virtually the entire medical community warns the world of the dangers of a pandemic, the matter should be settled. No room for doubt, no need for nuanced interpretation.
Yet 93 percent of Republicans say this president—who has repeatedly defied the medical experts’ clear conclusions about COVID-19—is doing a great job of steering the nation through this crisis. That statistic reveals that the Republican Party is broken, perhaps beyond repair. The Republican philosophy is dead, replaced by fantasies and fanaticism. Republicans—led, ironically, by evangelicals who claim to be followers of the One proclaimed Himself “the truth,”—have abandoned the very concept of truth. For most Republicans now, truth is not tied to observable facts; it’s tied to Donald Trump’s proclamations. If the new messiah says two plus two is five, it’s time to revise the school textbooks.
I do not agree with every position taken by the Democratic Party, but I must now vote for Democrats, because Democrats still believe in the concept of verifiable truth. And truth is more important than any legislated policy.
Trump and Trumpism must be soundly defeated in November. If you agree, then please go to this site and sign the petition.