How to successfully walk the tightrope of preaching when there are few agreed-upon “facts.”
While comedian Stephen Colbert was remarkably prescient some years ago when he introduced the word “truthiness” to our vocabulary, it was presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway who told us that there are “alternative facts” abroad in the land. Rarely has such an offhand comment so captured the imagination while also aptly summarizing the spirit of the age. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that while everyone is entitled to his (or her) opinion they are not entitled to their own facts. Until now.
Good preaching has always been a challenge, a combination of exegesis, insight and craft in witness to the Gospel and in service of the Church. Cultural forces, in particular the proliferation of media outlets and the explosion of available entertainment sources, have only made the challenge greater. And that was when most agreed on a common set of facts. Those days are now past and gone, and preachers may be forgiven if at times it feels as if the task is impossible:
- The pulpit is like a tightrope, stretched between red and blue, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. And there is no net.
- I read the Beatitudes last Sunday and the tension in the church was palpable. Who knew “Blessed are the peacemakers” were fighting words?
- Everything I say is being interpreted and analyzed for things I never even thought about. Joshua and the Battle of Jericho has become a commentary on whether or not we should build a wall on the border.
- I cannot believe how angry people are.
- I’m old enough to remember when the big difference was whether you got your news from Walter Cronkite on CBS or Huntley/Brinkley on NBC. Now no one agrees on what constitutes news. Or facts.
Truth in the Age of Alternative Facts offers a way forward. This is a book for preachers, teachers, and other leaders, along with students of preaching. It demonstrates how to proclaim honest, faithful, candid sermons, in spite of social and political disagreements. It teaches how to preach in a way that allows the Church to be its best self—a place of commitment, engagement, acceptance and compassion for all God’s children.