Untrustworthy

The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community

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About

Which media outlets will help me be a responsible news consumer? How do I know what is true and whom I can trust? What can I do to combat all the misinformation and how it's impacting people I love?

Many Americans are agonizing over questions such as these, feeling unsure and overwhelmed in today's chaotic information environment.

American life and politics are suffering from a raging knowledge crisis, and the church is no exception. In Untrustworthy, Bonnie Kristian unpacks this crisis and explores ways to combat it in our own lives, families, and church communities.

Drawing from her extensive experience in journalism and her training as a theologian, Kristian explores social media, political and digital culture, online paranoia, and the press itself. She explains factors that contribute to our confusion and helps Christians pay attention to how we consume content and think about truth. Finally, she provides specific ways to take action, empowering readers to avoid succumbing to or fueling the knowledge crisis.

Contents
Foreword by David French
Introduction
1. Naming the Crisis
2. Media
3. Mob
4. Schemes
5. Skepticism
6. Emotions
7. Experience
8. A Practical Epistemology
9. A Building Plan
10. A Breath


Endorsements

"Human beings have never had more access to more information through more channels. But all that data is meaningless apart from human trust. In Untrustworthy, Bonnie Kristian, a knowledgeable and reliable guide, helps us to consider the causes, consequences, and hopes for working through what is not only an epistemological crisis but also a relational one. Overcoming our current polarization will begin only when trust is built across fractured communities, and this book will help in that work."

Karen Swallow Prior, research professor of English and Christianity & Culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

"Read Bonnie's book to discern the causes of [America's knowledge] crisis. Read her book to understand its effects. And read it to understand the role you can play in solving one of the most pressing issues of our time."

David French (from the foreword)

"In Untrustworthy, Bonnie Kristian pulls together a compendium of resources for understanding the media landscape and disrupting its hold on our lives, our relationships, and our politics. Bonnie understands that Christianity has much to do with knowledge, and knowledge much to do with Christianity, and has written a book that will help restore knowledge to its rightful place in the lives of Christians and the church."

Michael Wear, author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America

"Our country's epistemological crisis is perhaps the greatest threat to democracy. And while it's tempting to feel hopeless in light of 'fake news' and people who speak 'their truth,' Kristian offers us ways to move forward. Untrustworthy is an incisive, deeply researched, and personal analysis of our truth crisis. It should be widely read and discussed."

Alan Noble, associate professor of English, Oklahoma Baptist University; author of You Are Not Your Own

"Many of us have a sense that all we once took for granted is now up for grabs. We are living through a crisis of knowledge, and the result can be a feeling of suffocating uncertainty. Untrustworthy opens a window and lets in a breath of fresh air--and hope. Bonnie Kristian offers a way out of pointless debates and fearmongering conspiracy theories. This book is never condescending and always sympathetic; it is never partisan and always incisive."

Jeffrey Bilbro, author of Reading the Times

"'Fake news,' conspiracy theories, misleading claims, lies peddled as facts, facts dismissed as lies--we're all familiar with the distressing evidence of our knowledge crisis. In Untrustworthy, Bonnie Kristian brings rare insight, charity, and wisdom to this pressing problem, clearly showing how we got here and, more importantly, suggesting concrete ways of working through the impasses tearing our churches, and our polity, apart."

Damon Linker, author of The Theocons and The Religious Test

"Untrustworthy reminds us that our search for 'whatsoever is true' requires humility, courage, and love, and calls us toward a tenacious pursuit of these virtues. Readers will find a powerful invitation to advocate for truth and goodness in an unmoored age, one in which epistemological questions and doubts confront us at every turn. Bonnie offers deep philosophical insights, incisive political commentary, and a wealth of practical wisdom in this timely book."

Grace Olmstead, author of Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Place We've Left Behind

"We are living in the midst of a truth crisis. Every single day information swamps our social media--popping up on our alerts or forwarded from friends. Not only do we not know what to believe but we also don't know how to believe. This is why this book is so vitally important. Bonnie Kristian is a first-rate journalist who is uniquely able to sift through the layers of today's truth crisis and help guide faithful Christians to know how to pursue knowledge and understand the times in ways that are in obedience to the lordship of Christ. She skillfully gets at the motivations that have caused a sense of distrust and alienation that drives us to extremes. This is a book the American church desperately needs and that pastors have been asking for. I'd urge you to give it a careful read and pass it on to anyone in your sphere of influence."

Daniel Darling, director of The Land Center for Cultural Engagement, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of A Way with Words


The Author

  1. Bonnie Kristian
    Nancy Hauck

    Bonnie Kristian

    Bonnie Kristian (MA, Bethel Seminary) is a seasoned journalist who writes on foreign policy, religion, criminal justice, urbanism, civil liberties, electoral politics, and more. Her column, "The Lesser Kingdom," appears in print and online at...

    Continue reading about Bonnie Kristian

Reviews

"In recent years, writers across the spectrum have noted the detrimental effect of social media on our politics and connected political dysfunction to a larger epistemic crisis. . . . . What distinguishes Kristian is the sheer comprehensiveness of her examination and, above all, her demonstration that the knowledge crisis may harm the church even more than democracy. At the heart of Untrustworthy is a clarion call for Christians to awaken to how this crisis is wreaking havoc on our churches and tarnishing our testimony. . . . Can we rise to the challenge? I confess I have doubts, but this I am sure of: Unplugging our devices and reading this fine work, slowly and prayerfully, would be a great place to start."

Robert Tracy McKenzie,

Christianity Today (5-star review)

"With sources of information having grown exponentially since the advent of the internet (which makes everyone a content producer), all opinions have grown to be seen as equally valid--experts garner no more respect than anyone else offering a point of view. Kristian believes that this has led to a social state where people can no longer talk to each other without passing judgment, deepening an already cavernous split between political groups, friends, and family members. She does offer some solutions, including detaching from constant social media consumption and eschewing 'news' that puts profit above good journalistic practice. . . . An accessible and coherent work that brings hope to those who are suffering from the loss of communication and relationships with former friends and estranged loved ones."

Gail Eubanks,

Library Journal

"[An] unflinching critique of the pervasive misinformation in American politics. . . . To build a polity more resilient against misinformation, Kristian urges readers to get involved in their local church and act compassionately."

Publishers Weekly

"We hardly have time to spare in getting a handle on this increasingly complex matter, what we know and how we know it, the conspiracies fellow citizens promote and believe and how it is dividing our land and even our churches. . . . [This book] is a practical study of the rippling results of a 'truthiness' culture and, now, the odd acceptability of conspiracy theories. . . . I know there are many books about polarization, and a few on the untrustworthy situation with many neighbors and friends falling for certifiable nonsense. . . . This is the first book that I know of that brings a thoughtful Christian perspective to this very question. . . . It is written with great wit and grace."

Byron Borger,

Hearts and Minds Books


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