“In quarreling, the truth is always lost.” (Publilius Syrus, first century, B.C.)
Civil discourse and illuminating debate are an endangered species. We have become victims of 30 second sound bytes and pre-scripted revelations masquerading as fact. We are no longer offered factual reporting, allowing us to form our own conclusions. In the name of political correctness, we are force – fed opinions and agendas to which we are encouraged to choose sides. Agreed upon standards have been obliterated and replaced by anarchy in words, thoughts, and deeds that reign untouched by a sense of the greater good.
I remember taking a summer course in Washington, D.C between my sophomore and junior years in college. It was offered by Syracuse University. During the day, we met representatives from government agencies, ambassadors, lobbyists, spokespersons for various non-governmental agencies as well as numerous senators, representatives and Supreme Court Justices. In the evenings we had reading and other assignments to complete. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Each morning we all read the Washington Post to see what was happening around the town, what Congressional committees were meeting, and what events were shaping the news. In the bottom right hand corner of each morning’s paper was a column describing itself as News Analysis. That is where a reader found opinion. It was assumed the other articles were based heavily on verifiable sources, facts and data. It was clear what was news and what was opinion.
The Washington Post had a reputation for factual reporting. And if I had any questions about an article, it was a probability that during our class sessions I would either meet the actual person who was involved with the events the Post reported or who would at least get me in touch with someone who would be willing to answer my questions. It was wonderful. I developed a great trust in our government and the folks who made and upheld our national and international policies.
One particular memory I have was sitting down at breakfast in the hotel in which we all stayed. Sitting at the next table, by himself, was Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., the then ambassador to Vietnam. Remember, this was 1969. I took the opportunity to introduce myself to the Ambassador, briefly explaining the reason I was in Washington and asked him if he would mind if I posed a question to him. He put down his copy of the Washington Post and for the next 15-20 minutes answered questions about the conduct of the war in Vietnam.
The next morning in the Post, I read a report of the Ambassador’s meeting with several Cabinet officials the previous day. There in print was exactly what Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. had discussed with me the day before during our impromptu interview at breakfast. What he was reported to have said to various Cabinet members was what I heard him say to me. Later that summer, his words, his message became reality. I heard truth spoken and I saw truth reported. That Fall, a new subscription to The Washington Post went with me to college.
When I talked to my fellow classmates and various professors concerning the war in Vietnam, even when we disagreed about content, because I had some verifiable, first hand facts to contribute, discussions became a bit less volatile. I had a perspective on which I depended as I entered classroom debate.
Facts, when verifiable, can temper emotional responses. Truth will be found somewhere in the discussion. One of my professors offered the class some advice, “stick with verifiable sources, facts and data and no matter how angry folks become with your information, you will know it to be as close to the truth as it can be.”
I took statistics during the second semester and learned you can arrange data, facts, and figures to arrive at just about any conclusion you decide to make. Then there was Richard Nixon and attempts at making unpleasant facts and conclusions seem like a vast conspiracy of lies. Unfortunately ex-President Nixon never was able to overcome his attempts to find an alternative, believable truth concerning the events of the Watergate break in.
Now as a pastor I preach words found in scripture. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” Surprisingly, I use no data or verifiable facts to believe in the truth of Jesus’ words. I have faith in Jesus Christ and His truth. I have hope because of my belief in Jesus.
I wish I had such faith and hope to trust in what passes for truth coming from our civil leaders.
My ability to trust and have faith in Jesus, is found in Galatians 5:19-23. For those of you who do not use scripture in your life, think of this duality as you decide in what to trust and in whom to believe. Do you trust in policies and people that affirm you, empower you, look out for your best interests, are attentive to your concerns or offer you assistance with life’s basic needs? Do you trust in policies and people who have amassed a national debt of $20 trillion? Do you trust in policies and people who acknowledge out of control gun violence, crippling drug addiction, massive student debt, and lack of jobs that offer a living wage? Do you trust in policies and people who promise you health care, pension reform and a reduction in taxes only to see those agenda items being side-lined while Congress goes on vacation?
Just a final word – if you wonder why I have faith in the lessons found in Galatians 5:19-23, it would be pretty hard to act the way we now do, if we all followed those principles and worldview. I have a chance for happiness and for something in which to hope, through Jesus. I am not sure where else in the world I can find that trust, that faith, that hope.
If you believe you have found a better way, please send me a comment on my website. I am always willing to listen and find new avenues for discovering truth.