It may be unusual for us to begin a reflection on Holy Week with a quote by contemporary philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), who almost half a century ago warned that lies in politics would emerge and hurt the very fabric of social order. “How vulnerable is the whole texture of facts in which we spend our daily life; it is always in danger of being perforated by single lies or torn to shreds by the organized lying of groups or classes…”
One must not look further to see how this is true in our current national situation; one must not even look further to see how lies have penetrated even our families and relationships. Fake news, historical revisionism, blatant lies, slander, and dishonesty proliferate in social media and are consumed by people whom we know and love. As educators, Christians, and people of good will, we are morally compelled to reject all forms of lies and deceit. It is our moral responsibility to correct those who are spreading false information. Lies, historical revisionism, deceit, coercion, slander against people’s reputation, uncharity, and fake news have no place in our lives, minds, and hearts.
Sin and its effects on the nation
We find in Scripture that the Devil is often called “the Father of Lies” (cf John 8:44). Thus, the work of the devil is always the direct opposite of God’s work. God works with truth, for God is Truth. And that truth gathers people despite differences. Satan, on the other hand, sows discord and division among God’s children using lies. Thus, dishonesty, deception, and disinformation are works of the devil.
Unfortunately, like a thief in the night, the forces of lies have creeped into our society. Many of our brothers and sisters are unaware of the lies they were made to believe. This is how the devil works: subtly and quietly. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, even warned us that the devil wouldn’t trick us by showing his dirt, but showing us something we like. For in deceiving us with things we like to see and hear, the devil makes us fall away from Truth.
These lies, when they enter into our society and our hearts, harm both the individual and human community. Its consequences are all around us: lost sense of what is right and wrong, acts of injustice against history and people, weakened moral foundation of our nation, deception, a false sense of unity, division, and corruption. Fake news and disinformation serve the selfish interest of the powerful few but slowly destroy the moral fiber and consequently the nation’s social and political order and its future. Fake news moves us further and further from our vision of the Kingdom of God.
Need for personal and societal conversion
The season of Lent allows us to honestly examine ourselves on how we have participated in lying and spreading disinformation within our families, working places, schools, public offices, communities, and relationships. We are called to examine ourselves and how we have tolerated lies and disinformation to proliferate in our society hurting people and causing confusion and conflicts among people.
As we make our decisions for the upcoming elections, we do not only look for truth, justice, and integrity in the candidates in front of us. Rather, we are invited to live out these same values in our own lives. Are we upholding these values of truth, justice, and integrity? Are we still searching for truth? And when we have found Truth, are we willing to be transformed and be guided by it? How am I working for social justice in my own way? Does the plight of the poor and also victims of various injustices still concern me? Is my life a good example of the values I look for a candidate, or am I a contradiction?
As we find ourselves in Holy Week, a time when we find the Love of God facing the forces of evil, we are invited to pray for humility to accept and change ourselves to fight against lies and deception. We must pray that God may give us necessary strength to advance the truth and not only as individuals but as one community.
Dreaming and working as a community
For us Christians, truth is not simply a set of rules, conjectures, or a series of factual and true statements. Truth, for us, is so much more. Truth is a person, and he is Jesus Christ (cf John 14:6). “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). With these words, our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a command to hold on to the truth and be marked by an unwavering desire to defend it. Let our discourses reflect our identity as Christians. Let it be a shining example to our students, friends, and children that indeed political discourses can be, as Pope Francis mentioned, one of the greatest forms of Christian charity.
We are reminded that our choice in the upcoming election is not only a choice that will benefit us and our families, but a choice that can be a matter of life and death for those who are most vulnerable – the poor, the helpless, and the powerless. Our choice in the upcoming election must be made while considering those outside our families, our city, those outside mainstream society – those in the peripheries and in the margins.
In a respectful and informed political discourse, we begin to be concerned about matters beyond our self-centered needs. Political discourses allow us to enter into a world where we, individuals as we are, begin to be concerned with matters affecting those who may be different from us. These conversations bring into our field of vision the needs of the poor, the problems in society, the demands of the common good, and eventually, they allow us to see another as our brother and sister. Our political discourses allow us to be radically compassionate towards the concerns of those in the peripheries of Church and society – their pain becomes our pain; their suffering can be ours too. This gives us hope, since hope is not dreaming for things unreal, but working for what hope for. When we hope for a better country and a better nation, we work for it!
Political discourses allow us to dream with and for the poor for a better life and a better nation. However, these conversations must lead us to acts of charity and concrete choices that will enable structural change or we end up just making noise like a resounding gong or clashing cymbal. Moreso, these conversations, exchanges, and discourses no matter how passionate we may be must be carried out with love, with Christ as the perfect model.
These respectful and informed political discourses as long as they are grounded on truth, justice, and integrity will move us to consider things bigger than the four comfortable walls that we have built for ourselves. Politics, informed with Gospel values, can and will transform our world and our nation. It may even transform our hearts. Politics and our political choices, inspired by the person of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the teachings of the Church, can contribute to the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth, right here and right now.
A blessed holy week and a joyful Easter Season! – Rappler.com
Father Mars P. Tan, SJ, is the 15th president of Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan. He is an environmentalist, marine biologist, and Jesuit priest. Father Tan holds a Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Notre Dame Australia, a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, a master’s degree in theology from Ateneo de Manila (AdMU) Loyola School of Theology, and a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU).