Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"News," Rumors, Opinions: Where is the Truth?

It's good to get a glimpse of how a first century backwater Roman province did "the news" -- they had information and expert opinion (Scribes and Pharisees) and social media too (the village gossip... recall, for example. the famous hashtag that went viral in Nazareth: #Isn'tThisTheCarpenter? [Mark 6:3]).

Clearly, the problem of failing to put current events in perspective is an old one. Human beings like facile judgments that can be passed around rapidly. We have always liked labels. We can see how the news spread regarding the provocative religious phenomenon that was happening in first century Galilee and Judea:
"John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children" (Luke 7:33-35).
Wow, that sounds like today's news. But I want to be a child of wisdom. What can I do? What can we do to be children of wisdom in the midst of a storm of folly that increases by the day?

We need to pay attention to reality. We need to sustain that attention, refusing to allow the manipulation of words and images to reduce us to superficial partisans of one or another set of fashionable ideas. Nevertheless, we must navigate through the storm, testing what gets strewn about in the sea, and making use of anything that can really float. Apathy is not an option. We will drown.

This is a real challenge, because it requires us to be both engaged and patient, active and receptive. It requires us to love the truth more than ourselves, more than that self-centered urge to possess reality by reducing it to our own measure. So often we take up this (apparent) satisfaction and the secret smug feeling of superiority it gives us. It's easy to forget about the truth because we think we can make ourselves happy by being right, by being on the winning side. We stop paying attention to reality. Indeed, we grasp our positions and our slogans like hammers and try to beat reality into the shape we have decided it should have.

No wonder there is so much violence.

In the end, truth "wins." And "wisdom is vindicated by all her children." We hope to share in the promise of that victory. It is this hope that ought to steer us through the winds of the daily news and every variety of opinion, with prudence and patience and charity, with a firmness that keeps our feet on the ground and enables us to take one solid step at a time on our journey.