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Vicar's Musings for Advent Sunday

27 November, 2016

The media has been running hot this week over the issue of "fake news." Facebook, one of the major purveyors, published a fake-news quiz to test your judgement on a variety of real and fake news items (www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-22/fake-news-facebook-quiz/8045158). The issue is not new, but has particularly come to light in the wake of the American Election campaign; a watershed moment in what is being described as the "post-truth" era.

The New York Times recently published a fake-news case study of Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old co-founder of a marketing company in Austin, Texas, who was not a big Twitter user, with around 40 followers. He tweeted a "news" item about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald J. Trump, which fueled a nationwide conspiracy theory — one that Trump himself joined in promoting: "Mr Tucker's post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem is that Mr Tucker got it wrong. There were no such buses packed with paid protesters" the NYT reported. The said buses were in fact taking people to a conference in the area, but Eric Tucker's quick check on-line for conferences in the area did not identify this fact. So he made up the news. In an interview, after his fake-news had gone viral, he said: "I'm ... a very busy businessman and I don't have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don't think it's going out there for wide consumption."

Today is Advent Sunday; the first Sunday of the new year for liturgical Christians. Our news this day is good news, the acclamation of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Some see this as fake-news, but for us it is the ultimate Truth that transcends all other truth. Meister Eckhart, the medieval Dominican theologian and mystic, puts it in this way (Sermon 3; DW 28, W 17): "In created things, as I have often said, there is no truth. But there is something which is above the created being of the soul and which is untouched by any createdness, by any nothingness. Even the angels do not have this, whose clear being is pure and deep; even that does not touch it. It is like the divine nature; in itself it is one and has nothing in common with anything .... It is a strange land, a wilderness, being more nameless than with name, more unknown than known."

This Truth is ridiculed and ignored by the principalities and powers of our post-modern, post-truth world. But having caught a glimmer of this Truth, we gather each week, in faith; and break bread together in hope; and forgive one another in kindness and love. Thanks be to God.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster



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