Time to Tell the Truth

by the Rev. Dr. Edward Frost

Published 2010 January 14 under "Thoughts for Everyday Living" in the Times-Courier the local newspaper based in Ellijay GA.

I haven't heard much about it in recent years but I'm sure there are those who still feel moved to greet the new year with a resolution or a re-resolution ("re-resolution" as in "this time I mean it"). Others, being perhaps less into perpetual self-deception, prefer to enter the new year with a wish, perhaps a fervent prayer. I am among these. I'll share my fervent prayer and profound wish — by all means, you go ahead with your resolutions. It certainly could not hurt to stop smoking (or whatever you are quitting) for a couple of days or so.

As for me, I pray that some graceful spirit united with some particle of reason will enter into our blessed populace to dissuade at least a few here and there to abandon their habit of repeating every political, social and/or religious declaration they hear or read as if it was "God's truth (rather than that of a few clerical or political commentators I will not mention)."

I shudder every time I hear it firmly stated as "gospel" that our president was born in Kenya; that there is a liberal conspiracy to drive the nation into socialism; that aged people will soon need to defend their right to exist before a government "death panel;" the Salvation Army is riddled with communists; and any number of other "facts." (Maybe the one about the Salvation Army is now out of fashion).

O God, O Dear Sweet Reason, before we repeat any frenzied message in this new year let us ask ourselves a simple question: Is it true? Do we not have a shared responsibility to our faith to stand upon the truth? If there is one value we share in our religious diversity is it not truth? Liberals or conservatives, our religious responsibility is not to our favorite pundits or to our political party or to our clergy. And the loudest among them are seldom the most dependable bearers of the light of truth. There is an old joke about the preacher who wrote on a page of his sermon, "Weak point here. Pound pulpit."

I would be so delighted in this new year to observe that more people are pausing before hitting the "forward" button to ask, "Is this statement true? Am I accepting it as true simply because it comes from someone of my faith or of my party?" And then — O please — perhaps a little research to find out if the person attacked, being accused and derided actually said what he supposedly said or actually did what she supposedly did.

"Senator So-and-So is determined to have the government undermine the moral authority of parents." If we simply post that statement, forward it, pronounce it among friends and family — or only add it to our list of unexamined convictions we do so simply because Senator So-and-So is a Democrat and we believe all Democrats are villains? Does the Democrat have to assume that no proposal coming from a Republican could be worthy of consideration? Some might recall that a critic of Jesus asked, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" In otherwords, "He comes from Nazareth so don't believe anything he says or credit anything he does."

In this new decade, may more people consider the worth and value of ideas regardless of their source. People of faith, citizens of the nation, everyone has the responsibility to test for truth lest the lie become the rule we are living by and no longer notice.

May this be the year in which more people put more trust in reason than in political or social dogma. The founders of our nation, unlike the rulers of other nations, insisted on religious and political freedom because they believed the people had the rational capacity to use such freedoms for the good of all. Our human community needs all the help it can get. No one benefits from unconsidered knee-jerk opposition. If an idea might feed more people, lift more people out of ignorance, poverty, and homelessness, what is to be served by stamping it out because of who gives voice to the idea?

For the sake of the truth, for the sake of the value on which our religious faiths rest, let each of us raise up essential questions in the face of simplistic declarations: Where is it written? What exactly was said? What is the basis for this accusation or that judgment? Ours is a fragile world, easily damaged by the perpetuation of mindless untruths and by the deliberate lie in service of what might well be called false gods.

Let us know the truth. As it is written, it is truth that makes us free.