Truth is a tremendously hard concept to grasp these days. As I ponder this, I consider how information is packaged that is passed along as "the truth" in our culture. The information highway has been reduced to packets of material that are about 10 minutes in length...about the average adult attention span these days. Television has helped to create this diminished capacity by presenting commercial breaks after about ten minutes of whatever show is playing. Even that is diminishing in most series to about seven minutes. The average one-hour television series has about 42 minutes of actual presentation. The rest is commercial material.
Each commercial is presented as the latest truth about a condition, product, or other commodity that is essential to our lives. Marketing and advertising is designed to convince us that we simply must have what is being offered -- and it is grounded in the truth of research or the word of experts, or famous persons in our culture (entertainers, actors, sports heroes, etc).
In the area of media information services (news and talk shows being the most notable), the commentators and guests are the passionate experts that work hard to convince us that their agendas, ideologies, points of view or observations are undisputed truths. Well, in some cases that may well be the case. However, with some truly intentional research, the vast majority of pundits can be found to have more emotional smoke than factual meat upon which to chew. As I said to one colleague recently, "I miss Cronkite!" He was truly an honest and objective reflector of the state of affairs being observed and reported.
I must admit, however, that the worst offenders of truth-based reality are those who represent religious materials via the mass media. The disciplines of theology and biblical exegetical method are demanding, exacting and complex. That is not to say that they can't be embraced by anyone willing to invest the time and energy; but one must do just that -- invest time and energy. One does not "do" these disciplines by osmosis. Remember the eunuch whom Philip came across in Acts of the Apostles? He was reading a scroll from Isaiah. Philip asked what he was doing. In response, he admitted that, while interesting, he could not possibly understand without a teacher. Philip climbed aboard the chariot and began teaching via exegetical means (i.e. interpretation based upon both research and revelation). Ultimately, the eunuch saw in himself the need for baptism. He made contact with his truth via revealed Truth.
The mass media moguls of rehashed religion are busy trying to sell a commodity, and they have done well to reduce the vast journey of faith into several very individualistic criteria that, with a gift of some dollars, can get you a book or DVD that will provide everything needful for salvation -- right now and neatly wrapped. It staggers the mind the extent to which folks will go to convince others that their lives are worthless and hell-bent. Along with the other things without which we cannot survive, we now need them to insure we have a ticket on heaven's train.
I am not sure that I have The Truth that I can share with folks. That would make me nearly perfect, and I shy away from that state of affairs rigorously. Sorry, no perfection behind these words or the face that fronts them. What, then, does one find when one comes to this place called St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. Hopefully, it is honesty that begins with the person in the pulpit and at the Altar.
I grew up in a garden variety family; in a post-World War II neighborhood; in a season of history that saw the first of the technology boom. I grew up getting into my fair share of trouble with my parents for actions that would irritate the stew out of my younger brother and cause consternation (and resulting punishment) from my parents. Lots of things happened growing up that would firmly plant me in the place of "normal kid."
As a young adult, things didn't change much. I loved (and still really enjoy) playing pranks and practical jokes on friends and those who seemed to be deserving of same. Few things please me more than long treks in the woods, swims in the Gulf of Mexico, or canoeing down a tree-canopied river. I love theology and the study of what makes us who we are and how we got to be where we are. I love science almost as much as theology. More than anything, I enjoy being a sojourner in the soul-scape of being.
One of the things I learned (and this was a hard lesson for me) is that I am first responsible to know my own soul-scape and interior being. Real exploration in this region of who we are reveals those things that are agendas, biases, prejudices, judgements or critiques based upon false or misleading information. Going deep is a painful process, but the rewards are so great that I fail to understand (now) why anyone would not want to take the risk.
Let's be really clear. This is not a set-up for sainthood. Each new revelation of the true self creates a new need to deal with yet another unpolished nugget of internal reality. This work is never done. No one is ever perfect! Not in this life.
The take away point here is that, if I am truly honest with myself and God, what I speak with be what is called "my truth." This isn't a selfish "my" but the "my" of internal honesty and transparency. The Native American culture and early Celtic Christian culture had phrases for "Speaking your truth." In the New Testament, St. Paul reflects Jesus' teaching in the exhoration to "Speak the Truth in Love." At the core of who we are is the Self created in God's image. It is the fundamental Truth of being. In touching that place, we reflect a passionate truth devoid of agenda, ego, prejudice, judgmentalism, etc.
It's not an all the time thing....but it is way better than nothing...or the smoke that often passes for the truth these days. A healthy faith community is the laboratory for this work. Believe me, it is work.