Connecting with Culture
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‘What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies then we’ll no longer recognise the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories?’
So begins the Sky/HBO series Chernobyl. The show portrays the explosion and aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, documenting both the misinformation and the heroism which surrounded the clean-up operation. The opening monologue comes from Valery Legasov, a member of the commission overseeing the management of the accident.
One of the themes that the writer, Craig Mazin, explores throughout the series is the danger, consequences of, and hopelessness found in lies. There are moments in which lies have clear and life-ending consequences, such as when officials initially refuse to acknowledge the reactor has exploded, and order visual inspections of an exposed nuclear reactor. But the show also highlights how a system built on perpetual lying leaves the people within it in a state of hopeless cynicism.
During the post-explosion inquiry, Anatoly Dyatlov, the man overseeing the reactor on the fateful night, abjectly notes to an investigating scientist: ‘You think asking the right question will get you the truth? There is no truth. Ask your bosses whatever you want, you will get the lie…’ For Dyatlov, a life lived within a system built around lies is one that leads only to hopelessness.
Perhaps the despair we, as a society, can feel when observing a world that seems to be tearing apart at the seams stems from the same source as Dyatlov’s. In embracing ‘alternative facts’, perhaps we too have abandoned even the hope of truth, and succumbed to hopelessness instead. But if the abandoning of truth brings hopelessness, the discovery of truth surely brings hope. Or as Jesus put it: ‘…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32).
Jesus was deeply concerned with truth – the truth that brings freedom in the fullest way. Chernobyl masterfully highlights the danger and despondency of living in a world that seemingly no longer cares for the truth. When our friends and colleagues might be tempted to head down a similar path, we can offer them hope and truth. We can offer them Jesus.
Chris is a Ministry Trainee at King’s Church Durham.