Thursday 31st October
The State We’re In….Fake News
Genesis 9: 20 – 29
Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backwards and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said,
‘Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’
He also said,
‘Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.’
After the flood Noah lived for three hundred and fifty years. All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.
We live in an era when we can no longer trust the news. The plurality of TV channels – some owned by other countries – means it’s hard to know what’s accurate; social media intersperses cute images of puppies with political campaigning and messaging (well it does in my Facebook feed!). During the EU referendum Michael Gove famously decried the input of experts (1) and Mr Trump has made famous the slogan “fake news”. It is hard to know if what we read, or view, is trustworthy. This isn’t new.
Today’s, little known, story from Genesis is ignored these days. Noah’s curse was against Canaan yet generations of Christians suggested this was the “curse of Ham” who, despite no evidence, was depicted as black. Ham’s supposed curse became part of a complex Biblical justification of the enslavement of black people. Slavery per se didn’t need much justification as the Bible, generally, condones it. Some justification was needed, however, as to why pagan Africans could be enslaved but Christian Europeans couldn’t. It took abolitionists several generations to persuade people that this was a misuse of the Bible.
Our nations are weary of Brexit – at the time of writing it’s not clear what Brexit may look like. Experts are derided, news sources are treated with suspicion and we live in an age where our institutions are distrusted. Many in Scotland believe the media to be partisan. Many in the Labour party believe the mainstream news is biased against their political vision for the future. Many in European institutions believe the British press lied in its coverage of European affairs. This distrust, and the reasons for it, harms both our democracy and our civic institutions.
As Christians one thing of value that we can add to the current state we’re in is to be trustworthy ourselves, to check our facts and to be accurate in our words and actions. We can also play our part in calling out “fake news” and helping folk to, again, respect experts.
O God, through your Word of truth all things came to be; we live, move and have our being in your gentle embrace. Help our words to be true, our critiques to be fair, and our politics to be just. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston ministers with four churches in and around Glasgow. He is the Editor of the Daily Devotions.