Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Truth... please

I was doing some reading last night along the themes of environmentalism when I came across this piece, written by a Christian, about the number 350. That's the parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere that the scientific community has general consensus on as most hospitable to climate stability. We're presently at 387 and rising, and according to the article we're rising faster now than ever before.

The article links with a fundamentalist response to environmentalism which calls into question the basic facts of science, building the case that to reduce carbon output would exacerbate poverty issues in developing countries. The only way such a case can be made is by alternatively calling upon, and dismissing science, depending on whether particular findings fit their desired conclusions. This is bad science, bad theology, bad living.

And it's everywhere. This morning's Seattle Times offers two book reviews that highlight the degree to which our culture is saturated with misinformation. First, Scott McClellan, former press Secretary for President Bush, spells out the deception, half-truths, and misinformation that was delivered to America leading up to the Iraq war. Then, in the sports section, Steve Kelly's article reviews a book about the death of Pat Tilman, and NFL star who left footbal to fight against the Taliban. His death, the result of 'friendly fire' from his own unit, was misrepresented to Pat's family, portrayed as a hero's blazing exit in the midst of intense combat with the enemy. This lie heaped even more grief and loss on a situation already mired in grief and loss.

I'm just wondering this hard is it to tell the truth? Jesus says that it's the truth that sets people free, and it seems that the high road, the way of integrity, is the way of seeking to know what is true, what is right, what is real, and pursuing it with vigor.

Of course, truth exposes. The word truth, by itself, sounds appealing. But truth never stands by itself. There's always a dose of something else, or several somethings, that must be swallowed with truth: confession, shame, humility, courage, confrontation, forgiveness, and pain. But these elements, like good medicine, lead us into spacious places where progress, transformation, liberation, healing, reconciliation, release, celebration, and justice can occur.

And yet, we lie instead. Why is this? Do we really prefer the blue pill? Would we rather simply not know, and continue living in fabricated realities, sitting in front of the TV, oogling over who the next American Idol will be? What about speaking the truth? Are we willing to have the hard conversation...with child, spouse, friend? What makes 'the hard conversation' something to be avoided?

I hope that we who follow Christ can be, before we're anything else, people willing to walk into whatever territory truth takes us. This will no doubt mean sitting at times with people and confessing, confronting, reconciling, forgiving, and hammering things out until, together, we move a step closer - in our marriages, friendships, and churches, to making the invisible God visible.

I'd like the truth please...


At 28/5/08 10:38, Blogger Ron said...

...which starts with being honest with ourselves first in order to dismantle the justification that convinced us that our lie was ok in the first place. Having told my share of lies - big and little - I have caught myself trying to persuade the other person that my lie was justified rather than just being sorry for hurting them in the first place. Good post.

At 28/5/08 10:45, Anonymous thomas said...

I'm wondering if this post could be tied to your previous one concerning the influence of technology on relationship - with others and our own selves.

Our virtual communities allow us fantastic control over how we present ourselves to others. The ability to conceal aspects of our own lives and to control the perceptions of others with whom we share relationships can be (or at least should be) frightening, as the temptations for distortion are huge (who doesn't want to be seen as happy or popular: "I have 487 friends!")

You mention in this post that pursuing truth is pursuing "what is real". For a generation like my own I think truth can be frightening (and speaking and seeking it difficult) simply in its reality - in its flesh and blood concreteness and messy ambiguity that defies our control. We thrive on virtual truth and participate in virtual confession and confrontation (as opposed to those "hard conversations" in reality) because stepping outside technological boundaries means we lose our ability to control our own self-revelation and distance from the messiness of others.

Our worlds do not fit very easily into a Facebook status or a myspace profile or, for that matter, a blog comment. But we often present these profiles and online identities as true to ourselves. This desire for self-control in terms of identity I think exposes our uncertainty with speaking and seeking truth and the ease with which we accept lies and half-truths. Our desire for self control and self identification and our willingness to bend the truth to gain it has been around since the beginning (the very beginning!), but maybe some of our technology just makes it easier and that much more tempting.

At 28/5/08 12:58, Blogger bunabear said...

Another great post and more thought provoking comments.

Richard's desire for the truth got me to thinking about "absolute truth." Here is a link to another blog I like to read.

I don't mean to change the subject and I hope I am not. While I read here about those who don't tell the truth, (therefore they lie). There are also those who toss around the idea that without "absolute truth" we are believing a lie. "The Truth Project" is big on this.

Telling a lie and/or believing a lie – discernment for me might be found in the messenger.

I remember once, my husband and I were at a war protest in San Francisco. This was at the beginning of the Iraq war. There was a young man dressed in his army uniform. He was standing silently with his girl friend who was dressed in short shorts and a tank top that looked like it was made out of an American Flag. Needless to say they stood out in the crowd. I went up too them and I asked the guy about his story. It was simple, he had recently returned from a tour in Iraq. He commented that the people protesting have no idea what it is like over there. I told him I understood that for sure (having never served in combat). I also told him that I don’t truly trust that my government is telling me the truth about this war. He looked straight at me and said if you don’t trust your government, whom are you going to trust? Without hesitation I said, God. He didn’t have anything to say to me after that.

So we have been told lies, the question is do we believe them? And what about absolute truth? I read that our President is firmly rooted in his belief that what he did was for the greater good. That seems pretty absolute.

Pardon the ramblings.

At 30/5/08 18:09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once taught abstinence to 8th graders in Pheonix, AZ. One of the questions that always brought about an unexpected response was, "Do you like to get away with telling a lie?" Usually, 8 of 10 8th graders resoundingly said, "Yes!" They said that they got a certain amount of pride from getting away with a lie, even to their friends! The bondage that humankind is in because of one lie (Gen. 3) is further exacerbated by following the way of the lie. Yeshua said that the truth will set us free. I think that maybe the truth actually scares many people, therefore they find safety in claiming that there is no absolute truth.

At 2/6/08 11:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are in a dualistic thinking mode. Jesus was no. He allowed the either or thinking to have no place in his thinking.

You can't handle the truth or better said reality. Truth is relative to each person and each moment. Jesus was talking about reality not your perceived truth. Because you can't handle the real truth.

At 2/6/08 12:43, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous #2,


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