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Pastor Jim’s Blog: Truth or Truthiness?


I read an op-ed article in The Seattle Times this morning (Monday) by Dick Meyer about “truthiness”  (this is the only time I will put quotation marks around the word; according to Meyer the word has been accepted into Webster’s Dictionary).  The word originated from Stephen Colbert some years ago reflecting on our attraction to things we want to be true.  The definition has two parts:  “truth comes from the gut, not books” and “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts of facts known to be true.”  This got me to thinking about a number of things including General Conference.

General Conference, you say!?  The bastion of United Methodist truth, or are we also victims of truthiness?  I have been proud to be a United Methodist; I generally agree with what is in the Social Principles but I also see evasion and truthiness.  Most specifically, over the years, with how our denomination has dealt with homosexuality.  Remember the definition or truthiness?  To believe something is true because we want it to be true, essentially in spite of what we know – at least as a community.  (People who deny evolution are living in truthiness.)  We know that homosexuality is not a choice, yet many continue to disbelieve this.  Why?  Simply because they don’t want it to be so?  I wish someone would just be truthful and say “because I don’t like it.”  They prevaricate with the Bible but this too is a dodge.  We also know that the Bible isn’t a rule book for life, that it is complicated, mysterious and multivalent.  We also believe that at the center of the story of the Bible is Jesus Christ who witnessed to the love and grace of God – when we forget that then the Bible becomes truthiness rather than truth.  How will the General Conference decide on this for this quadrennium?   Because of the balance of delegates it will sadly remain the same, I fear.  Will we persevere in our witness to the truth of God in Jesus Christ?

In fairness to our Church this isn’t simply our issue and struggle.  Dick Meyer’s article was about Donald Trump:  No one at his level of politics has ever been so alpha-male certain that his every hunch, gut feeling and off-the-cuff crack is true by definition.  No one has lied so promiscuously, blatantly and escaped any and all punishment for it.”  Donald Trump’s rise is not just a political event, it is a cultural manifestation of a deeper malady that includes resistance to learning, over-confidence in oneself and individualism in general, a focus on the primacy of money, a social darwinistic belief in competition and winning.  (Think of how Trump obsesses with winning – a good part of every speech is an account of his victories.)  Self, money and winning all lead to truthiness.  Meyers quotes George Costanza:  “Just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Pentecost is the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit and in one of our recent lectionary readings from John 14 it says, “This friend is the Spirit of Truth.  The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for.  But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you.”  A Spirit of Truth, not truthiness.  I wish that Donald Trump would actually read “One Corinthians” maybe the thirteenth chapter about love that he might get a clue about truth rather than truthiness.  And I pray that our General Conference will moved by this Spirit of Truth.  We can only imagine.  P.Jim




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