Tag Archives: justice

Alternative Facts?

I’ve been part of many conversations this week that were commenting on (ok, mostly ridiculing) the idea of “alternative facts”.  Yes, it does sound like Orwell-speak.  But I’ve been thinking….I wonder if there isn’t  a case to be made for alternative facts?

Case in point: my friend and I were discussing someone we both know.  You wouldn’t know from our independent “facts” that we were describing the same human being. My experience and his experience of this person were as different as chalk and cheese.   Were my “facts” – my own experience – of this person any less true than my friend’s?  Did we have alternative facts about the same person?

What about on a macro-level?  Are my “facts” about (for example) the current Israeli government’s treatment of people in Gaza – gathered from the information I research, the agencies I support, experiences I have, the concerns that I hold – any less true than my Jewish friend’s “facts” (from the same kinds of sources and her fear of anti-Jewish sentiment increasing in Canada (I agree with her on that….)? Are these not “alternative facts”?

Facts are information accepted as informed by our perspective.  And what we value.  And what kind of world we want to help build.

I’m talking about alternative facts – based on evidence and experience, not rumor and assertion; not based on something made up with hopes that the louder they are proclaimed the truer they will get. (Sad but true, even legitimate media are slipping into the same muck as the self-determining media wannabes, spreading “we think” as fact.)

But back to the point: information comes at us from so many directions, how do we know what’s true?  Facts we rely on is the information we take in, subjected to critical thinking,  vetted by the questions we ask, the values we hold, and the kind of world we want to help build.  What are the questions you ask?  What informs your values?

My values are informed by my faith: that Life will be Abundant for all people only when we see one another (every ethnicity and cultural heritage, gender expression, religious expression, political persuasion) as a sister or a brother; that peace does not come through intimidation but by wanting for the next person the same as I want for my self; that justice is not a synonym for revenge but a path to restoring relationships to a place of balance; that reconciliation isn’t a politically-correct slogan, but a willingnthe-very-powerful-dr-who-4-2ndess to shape, and be shaped by, one another so we are both the best we can be.  In the end, I accept as my “alternative facts” that for which the “bottom line for me and mine” isn’t the only criteria for making decisions.

And, with respect to The 4th Doctor*, I don’t believe truth and fact are the same.  Facts are information. Truth brings Life for everyone, everywhere; that’s what makes it Holy, that’s what draws us together.  That’s what will set us free.


Oh, Canada?

I was running errands around Brandon last week and was surprised to find many stores red maple leaf commons wikimedia orgopening Canada Day on ‘holiday hours’.  This spring I listened to people on both sides of the question of making the English words of O Canada gender-neutral. (Of note: the English words are nowhere close to the original in French, and I learned that the words “in all thy sons command” first showed up in 1914 to encourage young men to volunteer for service in World War 1. )  The original, French-language, version is purely a hymn to the country, no sons, daughters, or commands present. And nothing about hockey or “That Doughnut Chain” in either language…

So this started me thinking about what it means to be a Canadian.  Are the values that we all share? Do we see each and every person – regardless of skin tone, ethnic heritage, gender expression, sexual orientation, religious identity, place of residence – as equal?  For me that’s the place where spirituality becomes a point of challenge and gift: how do we see “the other” as part of “my family”, as my sibling or parent (or in the words I first heard from Rosanna Dearchild, host of CBC radio’s Unreserved, “hey, we’re all cousins here”). (more: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved)

I grew up with the Canadian mythology (the good kind) that we were a “mosaic of people”, that differences were part of our strength, that being homogenous meant only one group got to set the standards and if you didn’t fit then you didn’t belong and wouldn’t that be shame? Not to mention boring.)  I like that myth.  I like that we can build on one another’s perspectives and ways of doing things instead of insisting that we all be the same.

The challenge, of course, is to set aside the notion that “the way we do it” is the “way it ought to be done”.  The spiritual challenge is to keep asking “is this the way that most people will benefit?” And though someone will “lose” something in the process (as always happens), we need to ask “who” is losing out, “what” are they losing, “why” are they losing out, and does their losing out make this great country of ours more just, more compassionate, and therefore more successful?

(So I ask, as examples: Will men lose anything by allowing the word “us” to be sung? does making that word gender-neutral space for others to feel that they belong more? Does it make space for those who do not identify with one gender to feel they belong more? OR what happens to us as a community when our “national day of pride” becomes simply a short commerce day?)

And, as a Jesus-follower, I realize that sometimes I need to lose out a bit in order to make space for me to truly “love my neighbour as myself”.  And that is where I find the Holy present.

It’s summer. It’s a holy-day. It’s enough.  Enjoy the diversity that is Canada. And find its holiness.