Discerning Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News with Elizabeth Geitz
If we gave every religious person truth serum, every single one of them would admit that they fought at some point to unlearn harmful ideas and narratives their tradition taught them. Many would say they fight still.
Episcopal priest and award-winning author Elizabeth Geitz provides a powerful weapon in that fight with her concise, accessible, yet deeply considered book, Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News. It will benefit anyone working through their faith in light of new perspectives on social issues, church leadership, biblical interpretation, and more.
Geitz uses the term fake news to refer to the harmful ideas, narratives, and "-isms" that began "when people first interpreted the Bible to advance their own agenda." Fake news is anything but new, she points out. To counter this agenda-driven spiritual fake news, she draws on many scriptural passages and interpretations that point to radically inclusive love, respect, and dignity as the bedrock of Christian faith and witness.
In Geitz's hands, the term fake news becomes more than an accurate description of fabricated or purposefully misleading news or an inaccurate derision of news that one dislikes. It becomes a useful lens for critiquing the many "-isms" grounded in abusive misinterpretations of the Christian bible.
Her critique is thoroughly grounded in scripture, Christian tradition, and relevant current events. Each of the book's 101 reflections/devotions begins with a bible passage that presents a different view than what many traditions teach or emphasize.
The opening chapter, for example, combats the fake news that the bible presents God as a male with the truth that it describes God with both masculine and feminine imagery. Each reflection/devotion in the chapter begins with a bible passage that portrays God with feminine imagery. Geitz can't be accused of spinning interpretations out of thin air, proof-texting with a cherry-picked verse or two, or ignoring the bible as a source of truth.
Many of the reflections/devotions incorporate interpretations from ancient church leaders and contemporary biblical scholars. Geitz demonstrates that a broader, more inclusive understanding of scripture has existed since the earliest beginnings of Christianity as well as in the scholarship since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Hers is not a fringe voice.
Geitz occasionally addresses current events, such as mass shootings, immigration policies, and more. She is particularly concerned with events, attitudes, and policies that stem from a lack of love and respect for others, that can be traced to the fake news of agenda-driven misinterpretations of scripture. Geitz deftly avoids polarizing rhetoric and instead focuses on how a broader view of scripture might influence our perspectives.
Each of the book's reflections reads like a devotional, especially since they end with application questions that help the ideas seep into one's mind and spirit. A "Reader's Guide" at the beginning can help individuals or small groups get the most out of the book and its questions and encouragement.
In a reflection on racism, for example, Geitz writes, "Gradually I realized there was something God wanted to teach me [tutoring adults in a predominantly black community]. ... My perspective on the reality of life in America for all God's children was never the same." She concludes with a few statistics and then asks, "Can you envision the people behind the numbers? How is their life the same as or different than yours?"
The "-Isms" in Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News
With the approach above and a welcoming voice, Geitz tackles:
Covering this range of topics makes Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News a necessary, encouraging corrective to "selective literalism" and its fruits.
"Selective literalism has led to the abuse of using scripture to proclaim women as inferior, promote slavery, condemn homosexuality, turn away the stranger, promote a culture of fear rather than love, and more. Selective literalism has become the fallback position for those who do not understand the depth and breadth of biblical witness."
Anyone working through these (or similar) issues and what the bible says about them would benefit from Elizabeth Geitz's work.
Elizabeth Geitz Biography and Contact Info
Elizabeth Geitz is an Episcopal priest, award-winning author, and non-profit entrepreneur. Her books have received praise from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sister Helen Prejean, and John Berendt. She founded Good Shepherd Sustainable Learning Foundation and partnered with Sister Jane Nankaa to build Good Shepherd Academy in Cameroon, West Africa. Her website is elizabethgeitz.com, and she's on Facebook and Twitter.