When post-modern theorist François Lyotard wrote in 1979 that knowledge would soon become primary commodity, he could not have conceived what the internet would become.
He wrote of the unimpeded globalisation of the first world; commerce, culture and even politics crossing the boundaries of geography and language.
Today we find ourselves in an age that has ridden these concepts to the nth degree; information has become less of a data-transfer and more a global flood with half the world’s population accessing and posting on social media platforms.
We have witnessed the Post-modern notions of relative truth be adopted by our societies as an acknowledgement of the value of perspective and individual storytelling, but in a turn of cultural persuasion relative truths are now absolutes and we find ourselves in an unnerving state where reality doesn’t quite fit our definitions.
Like many readers, I have spent the last eighteen months in and out of lockdowns and restrictions.
Currently, I find myself in this paradoxical state of connection to the far reaches of globe, while being simultaneously confined to a 5-kilometre radius. There’s a point where, to understand the reality of what is going on beyond my own home, I have to scour through the mass of information plastered on news sites and social media, searching for the fact behind the opinion.
The value of information
If information is a commodity, the market it saturated.
As consumers we find ourselves naturally responding to this overload of information in two ways; apathy, where to an extent, all information becomes of equally low worth; or in recognising some information as more valuable than other information, cynicism towards both the platform and source. This creates a further question, that if all information is given equal value, what factors play into our evaluation of the sources?
Personal biases, political alignment, socio-economic status, the elusive algorithm that preferences information that evokes our most emotional responses; all these play a part, but not necessarily as you’d expect.
The search for truth
I’m yet to witness an issue as divisive and on as grand a scale as this pandemic.
Friends and family who grew up with the same values and social settings have vastly different opinions on the issue that have followed COVID-19. Post after post, one vehemently opposes vaccines and another proudly wears their post-jab plaster.
Novel-length comment feeds follow; citing sources, calling names, all with a passion as though their livelihoods depend on it; because in a pandemic, they do.
After living with a fluid concept of truth, this generation is simply not satisfied. The arguments that have catalysed under the pressures of a global pandemic are symptom to a deeper issue, the search for truth.
As believers in an absolute, unchanging God, we tend to deal in absolutes. We value Jesus Christ as the very definition of truth, and regardless of context of the reader, we have faith in the inspirational work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate scripture, and the responsibility of believers to guide one another in sound doctrine.
It is safe to say that most of us see ourselves in the early churches of scriptures; we may face similar challenges, similar triumphs; we certainly hope to be proclaimers of the Good News in the face of adversity, just as the apostles were.
We should hope to see testimonies of God’s goodness in this challenging time, and there are some; but a quick survey of feeds and I struggle to find a single word to God’s grace.
I am no different. I find myself in a deeper relationship with my government officials than some of my closest friends; I’ve certainly seen more of them. I find myself so overwhelmed by the information that I simply have no response; but in the Christian walk, there is no challenge we face that we face alone.
What will this age become?
We sit in the comfortable prison of our own homes; whether endorsing or doubting the decision to keep us here, it was not our decision to make. We can save our witness for freer times, or we can take stock of the words we share while our voice is limited to zoom calls and social media posts.
Are we offering hope, or just adding to the information?
The world is seeking truth, and we have it. I wonder whether Paul had the slightest suspicion that the four epistles he wrote under house arrest would have a greater impact than any sermon he spoke in person.
We live in unique and challenging times. We are simultaneously confined to our Jerusalem, yet closer to the ends of the earth than we have ever been.
The value of information has proven to be at the discretion of the consumer; yet we as believers hold a truth that stands outside the limitations of context and perception. That is the truth for which the world hungers; we have the unique opportunity in a time of unique limitation to cut through the mass of contention and shape the history of this age according to the Gospel.
Laura Wardrop has undertaken further study in the areas of Linguistics, Art, and Ministry. She currently works a graphic artist and painter, and takes a keen interest in exploring all areas of human creativity as a reflection of God’s character. She lives with her husband Stephen and two children in Brisbane.