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Reimagining Spiritual Formation in the

Post-Truth Era
James Laxa
De La Salle University – Manila
james.laxa@dlsu.edu.ph

Abstract: While spiritual formators are still navigating postmodernism, the post-truth era has rapidly been
evolving with the help of social media over the last couple of years. By way of critical reflection and
analysis as a methodology, this paper aims, firstly, to examine the literature on the post-truth phenomena,
then, secondly, to identify the salient elements of the emerging post-truth era, and finally, to formulate
recommendations in reimagining spiritual formation within this new context.

Keywords: post-truth, faith formation, Trump, Duterte, Catholic Church

1. Introduction

When Vatican II was convened in the 1960’s, its main intention was to
adapt itself to the current times and respond appropriately. The Church wanted to be
relevant to modernity which was heavily influenced by industrialization, capitalism,
and philosophical movements that significantly changed the way people think, act,
and believe1. Fast-forward, 50 plus years later, the world is now confronted with the
post-truth era2, which, I would like to argue, is an important development that is now
affecting the Church and faith formation.

Post-truth has been defined by the Oxford dictionary as relating to or


denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public
opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.3 It was the style of the Trump
campaign that put post-truth politics at the limelight. Trump began denouncing
globalization policies in a very emotional way by saying that Americans are
shortchanged without citing any specific research or report supporting his claim.4
This type of campaigning he did through social media where there is very little room
to check facts, argue or even dispute the claim.

In the Philippines, at about the same time of the Trump campaign, Duterte
began his campaign by cursing the Pope while casually recalling getting stuck in
traffic due to road closures during the Pope’s visit in 2015 in Manila5. When he was
chided by bishops and clergy6, he cursed even more. His supporters, on the other
hand, began flooding social media with fake news destroying the credibility of his

1
"Gaudium Et Spes", Vatican.Va, last modified 2017, accessed August 18, 2017,
http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-
ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html.
2
"Post-Truth - Definition Of Post-Truth In English | Oxford Dictionaries", Oxford Dictionaries | English,
last modified 2017, accessed August 18, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/post-truth.
3
"Post-Truth - Definition of Post-Truth in English | Oxford Dictionaries", Oxford Dictionaries | English,
last modified 2017, accessed August 18, 2017, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/post-truth.
4
Michael A. Peters, "Education in a Post-Truth World", Educational Philosophy and Theory 49, no. 6
(2017): 563-566.
5
"Duterte Curses Pope Francis Over Traffic During His Visit", Rappler, last modified 2017, accessed
August 18, 2017, http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/114481-rodrigo-duterte-curses-
pope-francis.
6
"CBCP Hits Duterte’s Cursing Of Pope", CBCP News, last modified 2017, accessed August 19, 2017,
http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=68704.
1
rivals7. Social media posts would often have the same style of cursing, intimidation,
and threats to anyone who would disagree with them. This behavior of cursing,
sharing his extra-marital affairs and threatening to kill all drug pushers and addicts in
his campaign speeches catapulted him to win the presidency by a landslide. While
this research is classifying Duterte with the post-truth because of the lies that his
supporters spread, Durterte’s style is also very akin to the alt-right ideology8 because
of his totalitarian and dictatorial style of governance where criticism is not
welcomed, and all those not following his rules deserve to die.

These two defining historical events and personalities from the environment
and context by which this paper would like to reimagine faith formation in the post-
truth era. By way of critical reflection and analysis as a-methodology, this paper
aims, firstly, to examine the literature on the post-truth phenomena, then, secondly, to
identify the salient elements of the emerging post-truth era, and finally, to formulate
recommendations in re-imagining spiritual formation within this new context.

2. Review of Related Literature

In this review of the literature, I am using Jonathan Mair’s9 structure to help


us understand the post-truth phenomena in a more organized way. Mair has divided
his discussion into four parts: post-truth popularized in politics, post-truth powered
by social media, post-truth's audience, post-truth's origins.
Mair begins by questioning whether it is worth discussing post-truth within
the academic disciplines if the only reason is its well-announced arrival in the
consciousness of what he terms as the intelligentsia. He observes that the seeming
novelty of this phenomenon explains the non-abundance of extensive studies as yet
on the matter. He acknowledges though that those that have written about it have
given helpful insights to provide points for discussion.
Mair has framed the discourse on post-truth in four ways. First is the glaring
dishonesty employed by some political leaders to “suit their narratives”. The case of
Trump is the most gut-wrenching because of the several incidences both during his
campaign and after he won the presidency10. Michael Peters has documented more
than 10 big lies from Trump starting from his claim that Obama and Hilary Clinton
founded and co-founded respectively the Islamic State until the false and claim that
the Chinese government created the global warming scenario to weaken the US
markets11 Trump’s associates were first to use the term “alternative facts” to justify
their false account of events.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has his own share of lies. He is
in fact referred to as the “Trump of the East” 12 because of his largely similar rhetoric
of hatred and lies. Duterte has lied that the Philippines has the biggest drug problem

7
Yuji Gonzales, "Magsaysay Foundation Refutes ‘Erroneous’ Claim vs Jesse
Robredo", Newsinfo.Inquirer.Net, last modified 2017, accessed August 18, 2017,
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/879003/magsaysay-foundation-refutes-erroneous-claim-vs-jesse-robredo.
8
Peters, “Education in a Post-Truth World,” 563.
9
Jonathan Mair, "Post-Truth Anthropology", Anthropology Today 33, no. 3 (2017): 3-4, accessed August
18, 2017, DOI: 10.1111/1467-8322.12346.
10
Peters, “Education in a Post-Truth World,” 563.
11
Peters, “Education in a Post-Truth World,” 563.
12
"Post-Truth Politics In Southeast Asia | Inside Story", Inside Story, last modified 2017, accessed August
19, 2017, https://insidestory.org.au/post-truth-politics-in-southeast-asia.
2
in the region which has been immediately refuted by other sectors 13. He has also
consistently insisted that the drug addiction is a criminal problem and not a health
problem. These narratives have allowed him to justify more than 7000 killings of
suspected drug addicts and pushers largely coming from the poor sector14. Unlike
Trump who has not categorically stated that he wants to kill Muslims and illegal
immigrants, Duterte has frequently threatened to kill drug addicts and pushers which
according to some human rights lawyers is a real threat which prompted the group to
file a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court15. He gave the same death
threats to corrupt officials.

Second is the role of social media that has given people access to an
enormous amount of information. Social media has given a new power to individuals
to broadcast to wide millions of people right at their mobile phones and desktops.
There are no editors or moderators. Social media is now a marketplace of everything
from everyone who has access to it. Social media is the source of fake news but it
also the source of legitimate news.

There is way too much information available now that the veracity of
information is not anymore being questioned but depends on the number of shares on
Facebook or retweets on Twitter16 Hyegyu and Jung have recently published their
findings that Twitter users tend to retweet sensational news items based on the
popularity of the tweet or because it has been retweeted by people they consider
reliable such as teachers or celebrities, and not really by checking its truthfulness17.

The third is the very character of the audience of post-truth itself. Mair
points to what he calls “confirmation bias” that makes people tend to believe
immediately what confirms what they already believe rather than truly seeking out
the truth18. Based on the foregoing discussion there seems to be a common direction
to view the recipients of false information as passive19 because probably they failed
to be educated to critical thinking and proper discernment of available information
(see post-truth and education).

Despite expertly being able to classify the discourse into neat sections, Mair
still believes the picture is not complete yet because there are underlying factors that
have brought about post-truth. Mair suggests that postmodernism plays a big role in
the emergence of post-truth and in the way people have dealt with information. Mair,
quoting Poremantsev, looks at postmodernism as a phenomenon taught people to
look that every unique explanation of an event is just another perspective of the same

13
"Why Duterte's ‘4 Million Drug Users’ Is Statistically Improbable", Rappler, last modified 2018,
accessed March 22, 2018, https://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/170975-duterte-drug-users-
statistically-improbable.
14
Carmel Matus, "Duterte Wants Death For Drug Addicts", Newsinfo.Inquirer.Net, last modified 2017,
accessed August 19, 2017, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/792554/duterte-wants-death-for-drug-addicts.
15
Nikko Dizon, "Duterte’S ‘I’Ll Kill You’ Threats Real, Says Complaint In
ICC", Globalnation.Inquirer.Net, last modified 2017, accessed August 19, 2017,
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/155332/dutertes-ill-kill-threats-real-says-complaint-icc.
16
Hyegyu Lee and Hyun Jung Oh, "Normative Mechanism Of Rumor Dissemination On
Twitter", Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 20, no. 3 (2017): 164-171, accessed August
19, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2016.0447.
17
Hyegyu Lee and Hyun Jung Oh, "Normative Mechanism Of Rumor Dissemination On Twitter", 169-
170.
18
Mair, "Post-Truth Anthropology", 3-4.
19
Mair, "Post-Truth Anthropology", 3-4.
3
event, and not necessarily a lie20. This explanation is simply relativism and
skepticism which has allowed postmodernism to thrive 21.

Reflecting on his role as an anthropologist, Mair believes that anthropology


desires to share to people the many realities that are shaping our constantly changing
world based on studies following the rules of science. The first challenge is for his
colleagues not to dismiss post-truth as a mere problem of lack of discernment, or just
a natural consequence of too much social media but to see the real choice to contest
facts is happening within the person. So, the second challenge for him, simple as it
sounds, is to teach people on critical thinking and on what the scientific method is22.

Summary
We divided the discussion above in four chunks. First, post-truth has first
taken its public appearance in politics where politicians like Trump and Duterte
would claim false narrative of events or constructions of reality to fit their agenda or
justify their actions. Second, post-truth has revealed the enormous power given by
social media to anyone who has a device connected to the internet. People can post
anything without any editor or moderator to control what is being posted. Third, the
abundance of information through social media does not give enough time for people
to discern factual news from fake news. This serious inability of the public to process
and sort information has challenged the academy regarding the training being given
to students on critical thinking and reflection.

3. Looking at the salient elements of post-truth

To help us navigate the myriad of ideas presented above, I will make some helpful
easy to read outlines. The following is a summative outline of the preceding post-
truth discussion:

1. Truth is what I believe in and not necessarily what took place


a. I can share or retweet information that I believe in and care about
even without checking
b. Legitimate news is shared and retweeted by a lot of people
c. Alternative facts are OK because we believe that these facts are
true.
d. News agencies are owned by people against the current political
administration
e. I interpret history with how I want it to be

2. Truth is how I want things to be and not what society or common good
dictates
a. Construction of reality is based on what I think is
b. Common good is applicable only to white people
c. Some people are bad, and they deserve death

This outline reveals that post-truth cannot be dismissed as just the powerful
taking advantage of the vulnerability of social media users or just a way of venting
frustration from failed promises of politicians. It is a way of thinking and a belief
system that needs to be given serious attention.

20
Mair, "Post-Truth Anthropology", 3-4.
21
Mair, "Post-Truth Anthropology", 3-4.
22
Mair, "Post-Truth Anthropology", 3-4.
4
Post-truth is an extreme form of postmodernism to some extent. It takes
pluralism to the next level. It seriously claims that there is no one viewpoint to reality
and that there are alternative facts exists alongside the real ones. It’s like saying that
an apple falling from a tree need not be caused by gravity. There might be an
alternative explanation for that phenomena. But in its most recent manifestation in
the Alternative Right ideology23, it cannot be simply post-modern anymore because it
has removed the common good from its limits. Alt-Right is all about hatred24.

The American Academy of Religion, a US-based, international professional


academic organization, of which I am a member, has released a statement
condemning the Charlottesville incident where one woman died after a car plowed
into a crowd protesting white supremacy and hatred25. I quote its full statement here.

Statement on Charlottesville – American Academy of Religion26


Higher education is enriched by the diversity of its teachers, students, and
staff. People of different religious beliefs, races, political outlooks, sexual
orientations, and those living with disabilities energize communities of
learning across our nation. Diversity and inclusion in higher education are
not liabilities; they are goods to be pursued and celebrated.

The Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion condemns the


hatred, bigotry, violence, racism, anti-Semitism, and the ideology of white
supremacy that led to the deadly unrest at the University of Virginia and the
city of Charlottesville. These attitudes and behaviors have no place in the
classroom, the university, the learned society, or society at large.

The statement is significant in this study because it has properly


distinguished postmodernist values of celebrating diversity, differences versus post-
truth values of hatred, racism, violence, etc., saying that the latter does not hold any
place in the classroom.

Post-truth is a return to totalitarianism, hatred, and racial supremacy. It


operates through fake news, intimidation, false accusations, lies, and deceptions. It
can only be described as something out rightly wrong and dangerous.

4. A review of post-modernism

To help us see the salient elements emanating from the discussion above, I
shall be using the Sanks’27 characterization of post-modernism. This is in consonance
with Mair’s view that post-truth devolved from postmodernism28.

23
Peters, “Education in a Post-Truth World,” 563.
24
Nancy S. Love, "Back To The Future: Trendy Fascism, The Trump Effect, And The Alt-Right", New
Political Science 39, no. 2 (2017): 263-268.
25
CNN Nadeem Muaddi and Nora Neus, "James Alex Fields Charged With More Felonies", CNN, last
modified 2017, accessed August 19, 2017, http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/18/us/charlottesville-james-
alex-fields-charges/index.html.
26
"AAR Board Issues Statement On Charlottesville | Aarweb.Org", Aarweb.Org, last modified 2017,
accessed August 19, 2017, https://www.aarweb.org/about/aar-board-issues-statement-on-charlottesville.
27
T. Howland Sanks, S.J., "Postmodernism And The Church", New Theology Review 11, no. 3 (1998): 51-
59.
28
Mair, "Post-Truth Anthropology", 3-4.
5
Sanks was writing in 1998 and reflecting on the many manifestations of
postmodernism in the Catholic Church. He divided post-modernism into 7 categories.
Basing himself from Charles Jencks, Sanks gives an overview of the postmodern
world as a movement away from the materialism of the modern era, towards
pluralism to allow cultures to interact, a way to bring back traditional values
destroyed by modernism, acknowledgement of individuality and differences of
beliefs and thoughts, experience awe with scientific discoveries, and a sense of
commitment to keep this world habitable.

Let’s see the main points with more details.


1. Pluralism is one of the main characters of postmodernism which simply
means that there is no one viewpoint or explanation to reality in whatever discipline
one is in such as religious beliefs. It abhors authority and totalitarianism.
2. Uniqueness and eclecticism, a consequence of pluralism, attempts to
combine elements without any harmony. This might be seen in architecture where
different elements are seen in one structure. This is best explained, according to
Sanks, in Lyotard's idea that postmodernism is simply a continuation of modernism
in a state where the individual is more conscious of himself as someone unique.
3. Individuality, difference, and otherness are another expression of
pluralism. The most positive example of this post-modern-characteristic is the
acceptance that a woman looks at the world in a very different way from men. This
would eventually have repercussions with the LGBT-Q movement. Postmodernism
affirms the otherness of anyone.
4. Ambiguity is a natural consequence in postmodernism because of the
many viewpoints available. Postmodernism, according to Sanks, admits that there is
no way of knowing anything with finality.
5. Democratizing movements or freedom in many aspects of life is one great
gift of postmodernism. Sanks sights the electronic freedom as an evidence of this
reality comparing it to the modern era where many aspects of life are controlled.
6. Participation and dialogue are again beautiful characteristics of the
postmodern. The acceptance of individual differences, uniqueness, etc. give way to
participate in art, music, philosophy, etc.
7. Local and aspects of life become more important than the bigger
narratives. Local experiences become of great value because these reveal the
individuality of persons and places.

Sanks description would be helpful in helping us describe what post-truth is


not by presenting it in a table.

POSTMODERNISM (Sanks) POST-TRUTH / ALT-RIGHT (Peters)


Pluralism Racism, bigotry
Eclecticism Racism, bigotry
Democratization authoritarianism
Individuality Racism, bigotry
Ambiguity Racism, bigotry
Participation and dialogue authoritarianism
Local and particular Authoritarianism, totalitarianism
Table 1. Comparison of Postmodernism and Post-truth

6
This table reveals how far away is post-truth from postmodernism due to
clearly opposing values. The table also shows that post-truth cannot simply be a
bastardization of postmodernism as a claim by Mair29 because it does not have any
common value, to begin with. The very core of postmodernism which is pluralism
and inclusion is exactly the opposite core beliefs of the post-truth era and alt-right
ideology which are white supremacy and bigotry.

4. Analysis and Discussion


This paper is emanating from a deep concern about the influence of the
post-truth era to faith formation in the academic setting. Post-truth is a phenomenon
where outright lies are blatantly used to put forward an ideology or justify an action
that may have potentially harmed others. Post-truth has been chosen as the word of
the year last 2016 because of the prevalence of fake news, alternative facts, and
propensity to violence. The election of Trump and Duterte are the clear
manifestations of this era. Trump and Duterte have common ways of disregarding
human rights and creating false stories that result to violence against a certain group
of people. Post-truth stands completely against everything that I stand for as a
Catholic, educator, human being, father, son, and everything that makes me a person.
I have a theory that post-truth may have started among dishonest lawyers
because of their propensity to lie between their teeth and under oath just to win a
case. This argument is bolstered by the fact that majority of our national leaders are
lawyers starting with President Duterte himself. Post-truth has gone beyond the
bastardization of the beauty of post-modernism. While postmodernism is the
celebration of the individuality of persons and respect for the plurality of opinions,
post-truth has pushed the pendulum to the most extreme-end to the point that it
violates the individuality of others. Postmodernism means I may not agree with you,
but I accept you. Post-truth, on the other hand, means I don’t agree with you and I
don’t like you. Post-truth asserts itself as the only truth while being an obvious lie in
the first place. Let’s take the example of Duterte’s behavior towards drug offenders.
He employs a narrative that these people are beyond redemption because their brains
have been permanently damaged by the drugs. This false narrative justifies their
killing. This narrative goes against the foundation of every civilized society which is
the dignity every person whether a criminal or not, rich or poor, etc.
Post-truth is recidivism and anachronistic. The movement is bringing the
world back to pre-black liberation status. White supremacist and unjust profiling
have been reignited by Trump through his views on immigration affecting several
nationalities.
Scientists are already distancing themselves from post-truth because it goes
against the grain of scientific research were to reach the truth, and nothing but the
truth is the primary target. Post-truth blurred the definition of an outright lie by
calling it alternative fact. With post-modernism, the common good was still
respected. With post-truth, any person can be vilified.
Let’s take the case of Senator De Lima when a supposed sex video
involving her surfaced on the internet. Dozens of congressmen jumped on the
bandwagon and started demanding for her resignation and disbarment because of
unethical behavior. The sex video meanwhile shows a man and woman of African
origin. The faces are clear enough to know outright that the woman is not De Lima,
and the man is not her lover. And yet congressmen went ahead to show the video in

29
Mair, "Post-Truth Anthropology", 4.
7
the house investigation. Several female senators and women’s right advocate bravely
protested this action and called the action as chauvinist 30.
Because of the availability of unlimited information found on social media,
people have become less discerning and reflective of what they read 31. Post-truth has
catapulted as a social-political phenomenon because of the thousands of shares and
likes that people do on unverified information that could potentially destroy
reputations or even cause violence to others. Online campaigns, such as “Think
before you click” were created to counter such destructive habits of people of all
walks of life that consider the number of retweets as a standard of veracity rather
than responsible journalism or in-depth investigation.
Faith grew and deepened with post-modernism32 because it encouraged a
profound individual relationship with God33. Post-truth seems to be a unique era
where no one can see yet how it would evolve. Is this something that could be
conquered only through prayer and fasting? Post-truth spirituality calls for an
intelligent faith that discerns with care, practices mindfulness, spends time in prayer
and meditation, and values the dignity of every person. The history of Christianity
speaks for itself. All other movements, kingdoms, and institutions in the past have all
but failed and faded but not the Church. All claimed the truth but only the Church
remained.
The temptation in the desert34 offers us a clear pericope as to how post-truth
is affecting Christians and everyone else. The evil one attempted to tempt Jesus by
telling lies. Power, prestige, authority, and honor were all offered to Jesus in
exchange for obedience to the evil one.
The case of Dr. Antonio Contreras35 is one example that may contradict my
theory that the truth that we know from scripture and tradition is still the truth. Dr.
Contreras continue to support Duterte despite and in spite of all that we see. He sees
his position within the “frames of analysis and political contestations” which he calls
“The Anatomy of Power and Resistance”36. He certainly has the right to his own
opinion, no matter what. It’s not all about lies and falsehoods. It’s about being able to
resist and to contest facts.
Post-truth seems to be the peak of relativism. In the various philosophical
movements that the Church has pinpointed as problematic in moral theology,
relativism has been one of the repeatedly discussed situations where judgment or
action is based on the situation or on one’s opinion. Immanuel Kant’s argument that
we can never know what things are like in themselves implies the impossibility to
take hold of what is true37. Nietzche who has famously asserted that God is dead is
now among the main sources of the reading of the alt-right ideological movement38.

30
ABS-CBN News, "Sexism, Misogyny 'Alive' In Congress, Says Lawmaker", ABS-CBN News, last
modified 2017, accessed August 19, 2017, http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/05/04/17/sexism-misogyny-
alive-in-congress-says-lawmaker.
31
Pocholo Concepcion, "Sex Video Fake, Say Viewers", Newsinfo.Inquirer.Net, last modified 2017,
accessed August 19, 2017, http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/820579/sex-video-fake-say-viewers.
32
James W. Fowler, "Faith Development Theory And The Postmodern Challenges", International Journal
for the Psychology of Religion 11, no. 3 (2001): 159-172.
33
T. Howland Sanks, S.J., "Postmodernism And The Church", 51-59.
34
Mark 4:1-11.
35
Audrey Giongco et al., "The Man Behind The Controversy: Dr. Antonio Contreras", The Lasallian, last
modified 2017, accessed August 19, 2017, http://thelasallian.com/2016/01/26/the-man-behind-the-
controversy-dr-antonio-contreras/.
36
The introduction to his professorial lecture stated: In this lecture, Dr. Contreras will present an auto-
ethnographic, auto-phenomenological narration of his first-person experience as part of what has been
labeled as the world of the Dutertards. He will draw from the theoretical lenses of cultural studies, and of
post-modern frames of analysis to reveal his personal narrative of negotiating the difficult and exciting
world of the virtual and the real domains of political contestations as an everyday and ordinary experience.
(Text is available only via the De La Salle University intranet).
37
Kathleen Higgins, "Post-Truth: A Guide For The Perplexed", Nature 540, no. 7631 (2016): 9.
38
Kathleen Higgins, "Post-Truth: A Guide For The Perplexed”, 9.
8
Implications and Recommendations for Faith Formation
We begin the discussion with postmodernism to help us usher in again a
better understanding of the post-truth/alt-right phenomena. Postmodernism enjoys a
relative privilege in the Catholic Church for being one of the most well adopted
philosophical movement because of the many gospel values it holds 39. Muldoon, for
instance, has affirmed the double-effect of postmodernism in faith formation.

There are both positive and negative dimensions to this privileging of the
individual. Positively, it demands that individuals appropriate for
themselves the means by which to make reasoned judgments. In the area of
religion, this means that the individual can no longer rely on the community
or the cleric for faith: the individual must come to the act of faith through
personal initiative, personal response to the invitation of God.
Postmodernity, in this perspective, presents Christians with an opportunity
for growth, an opportunity to look into the meanings of accepted doctrines
in order to discover anew the ways in which God invites people to intimacy.
The negative dimension, however, is that democratization can persuade the
individual that faith is a private enterprise. And where faith becomes
privatized, it becomes a consumer commodity, governed by economics. A
democratized faith can, in the extreme case, become an attempt to answer
the question, ‘what’s in it for me?’40

Muldoon has wisely given two possible routes by which a postmodern


Catholicism could happen. In a 2010 conference facilitated by a Catholic bishop in
the Philippines, postmodernism continues to be looked at as a threat to the faith in the
Philippines because of its propensity to accentuate the individual choice and make
people decide for themselves. The Philippine church leadership is still
overwhelmingly conservative despite the very postmodern context of the country
since the beginning of Vatican II.

The beauty spoken of about postmodernism cannot be said of post-truth/alt-


right because these deny the basic dignity of a person. The valuable person for them
is only a white, male Caucasian. A postmodernist would simply look at them with an
appreciation for their diverse and extreme view, that is, if it remains as a view and
not as an actual legislation or advocacy. This is what happened at Charlottesville this
August 2017. The postmodern environment has accepted such divergent views that it
failed to recognize that it was already going out of control.

The AAR statement has given us a clear picture on what post-truth/alt-right


is embracing namely hatred, bigotry, violence, racism, anti-Semitism, and the
ideology of white supremacy. And to add to this list we have what the anthropologist
Mair has suggested to educators, that is, retaining students in critical thinking. Given
these, we see that post-truth/alt-right is everything that is opposite to the core of
Christianity which is unconditional love. This unconditional love supports the idea
that every person, regardless of race, gender, color, religion, has an undeniable
dignity which demands respect and acceptance.

In the effort of making sure everyone is heard and respected, society has
ignored the extreme ideas of others, allowing them to ruminate hatred and bigotry

39
Tim Muldoon, "POSTMODERN SPIRITUALITY AND THE IGNATIAN FUNDAMENTUM", The
Way 44, no. 1 (2005): 88-100.
40
Tim Muldoon, "POSTMODERN SPIRITUALITY AND THE IGNATIAN FUNDAMENTUM", 90.
9
without any guidance. Educational institutions and parents have supervisory roles in
allowing the development of young people’s minds and hearts. But given that social
media is a new source of “guidance” for the young, all the more is the need to
educate and train the young to critical thinking and reflection.
The condemnations made by political leaders, and several universities and academic
institutions are something to be welcomed and celebrated because it means that post-
truth/alt-right beliefs are wrong and dangerous to people41.

Responding to the post-truth era with an intelligent faith may not be enough
because this is just a mere intellectual response too. But responding with something
that affects the whole being may bring about significant results.

What now should be the emphasis in faith formation to counter post-


truth/alt-right? I think formation has emphasized too much on individuality rather
than on community. But this is just me pondering. Looking at the AAR statement on
Charlottesville, we gain some ideas on the necessary values that need to be re-
emphasized in faith formation. I see two points immediately: diversity, inclusion. But
these two are based on the dignity of every person.
Critical reflection and thinking

One good recommendation in helping the young develop critical thinking


and reflective is the Lasallian Reflection Framework (LRF)42. The LRF is a
framework that originated from the see-judge-act method43. It invites students to look
at social situations through the lens of faith via three processes. First, observe-
experience: this first process demands that a thorough knowledge of the situation
must be achieved not only intellectually but also by experiencing it if possible, like
immersion for example. Second, analysis-reflection: this process brings you deeper
by analyzing the situation using the lens of the gospel thereby crafting a sound
judgment of the morality of the situation. Third, commitment-action: this last process
will now see the application of the analysis and reflection done.

Contemplation and mindfulness


A few years ago I came across the mindfulness movement among law
professors that teach and encourage law students to practice meditation, yoga,
breathing exercises, etc. because these lawyers have discovered the physical and
mental benefits to students and practitioners44. University of California Berkley Law
School is even offering courses on mindfulness45. The movement believes that
lawyers become more discerning when their minds are relaxed. The university
describes one of the course’s objectives in this way:

41
"Donald Trump Tweeted A Very Different Statement About Charlottesville Than Other Officials", Vox,
last modified 2017, accessed August 18, 2017, https://www.vox.com/2017/8/12/16138666/donald-trump-
tweeted-different-statement-charlottesville-rally-white-nationalist.
42
DLSU IRPA DLSU ITS, "De La Salle University : COSCA : Lasallian Reflection Framework",
Dlsu.Edu.Ph, last modified 2017, accessed August 18, 2017,
http://www.dlsu.edu.ph/offices/cosca/framework.asp.
43
"Catholic Social Teaching Series - Reading The Signs Of The Times - Australian Catholic Social Justice
Council", Socialjustice.Catholic.Org.Au, last modified 2017, accessed August 19, 2017,
http://www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au/spirituality-for-justice/10-social-teaching/94-reading-the-signs-of-
the-times.
44
Kim, Kidae, "Integrating Mindfulness Meditation Into Law Practice And Legal Education In The U.S
And Its Prospect For Korean Legal Profession - From ‘Nowhere Lawyer’ To ‘Now-Here Lawyer’ -
", Korean Lawyers Association Journal 63, no. 2 (2014): 226-270.
45
See https://www.law.berkeley.edu/students/mindfulness-at-berkeley-law/courses/
10
That cultivating awareness and developing thought leadership gives you
critical tools to help you make those choices in ways that can result in less
conflict and suffering, and more curiosity, compassion, empathy, and
equanimity, for yourselves, in your profession, and in the wide sphere of
influence that you, as lawyers, will have.46

Conclusion
The examples of Trump and Duterte certainly exemplify the Oxford
definition of post truth in a lot of ways. What this definition failed to highlight is that
personal beliefs may be based on a premise that denies the dignity of people
regardless of race, color, economic status, religion, sexuality, gender, etc. The
definition is too soft to encompass what we see happening. The most disturbing in
the findings above are the people behind the fake news and the gullible readers that
take the fake news as true.

All these pose a challenge to spiritual formators to step up and reconsider


their strategies. To see learned people, educators, and lawyers embracing
intimidation, hatred, intolerance, and violence is indeed mind boggling. While
respecting their choice, we do need to take a stand too and proclaim that hatred,
intolerance, and violence is wrong and dangerous.

Reimagining faith formation is taking seriously the signs of the times, much
like what Vatican II did in the 1960’s. Vatican II responded with dialogue with both
sides, long discussions that start with prayer, assemblies that are punctuated with
inspirational scriptural quotes. At least we see this reflected in the 16 documents that
eventually came out of the council.

Taking the cue of the council fathers, faith formation must also take a calm,
reflective, and prayerful way of moving forward towards a reimagined faith
formation. Even the Philippine Catholic Church right now is still discerning how to
act given the daily killings, cursings, intimidations, lies of the Duterte government.
At a certain point, Bishop Villegas. As president of the Catholic Bishops Conference
of the Philippines, he gave a reflection on the virtue of silence47 to explain why the
bishops have stopped issuing statements or pastoral letters. It is certainly a
challenging time but it, not a time to be afraid or to simply surrender. Post-truth and
alt-right are evolving realities still, therefore, vigilance should really be observed. It
should be a vigilance coming from a mindful and prayerful self, and an intelligent
faith that applies critical thinking and reflection in discerning facts and events.

46
See https://www.law.berkeley.edu/students/mindfulness-at-berkeley-law/courses/
47
"Bishop Amid Duterte Tirades: 'There Is Virtue in Silence'", Rappler, last modified 2017, accessed
August 19, 2017, http://www.rappler.com/nation/135395-cbcp-archbishop-villegas-statement-duterte-
catholic-church.
11
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Laxa: Director, Lasallian Pastoral Office, De La Salle University Manila,


Philippines.

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