By Pastor Paula Burchill
I walk around humming tunes from the musical Hamilton A LOT. 2/3 of my children are obsessed with the Broadway musical, which does an amazing job of teaching about the founding of our country. One of the songs quotes the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….
Many people have lamented how truth has become relative in our modern age. And for me, nowhere has that fact reared its ugly head more than in our recent election. The Pew Research Center reports that 62 percent of people get their news from social media. This is understandable because so many of us are tied to our electronic devices. However, what has been coming to light recently is how many of those news reports are “fake.”
And this problem is compounded by the fact that Facebook, for example, knows what we like and who we read. So it will fill our newsfeeds with like-minded news reports, not checking [at least at this point] for accuracy. And you know how it goes, you “like” something, and then it gets passed on, and on and on and on. And I tell my teenagers that they have to check the source when they see something on Instagram, but who has time for that? And so it becomes a vicious cycle, and unfortunately, what is true becomes hard to discern.
There is a line when Jesus is on trial before Pilate, and Pilate is trying to get to the bottom of why Jesus should be put to death. He is asking Jesus if the accusations are true and they talk, and then finally Pilate asks him, “What is truth?” I find that question to be so poignant—because for me it seems to combine confession, lament, seeking, hope and hopelessness all in one three word question. Don’t we all want to know what truth is? Wouldn’t it be great if it were a little more self-evident in this day and age?
I hope that we are at the very least learning through this election to be vigilant about what we read and how we share what we read. We have to stop spreading lies. We have to question what we hear. Very often the news wants us to believe that we are polarized. That there are extremes—right and left, black and white, men and women, democrats and republicans, city folks and country folks—when in fact, I believe that the truth is that most of us are somewhere in the middle in most of our beliefs.
My family recently took an amazing trip to Washington, DC. The first thing we did was take a tour of the Supreme Court. While on the tour, we were told the story of former Chief Justice Fuller, who in the late 19th century instituted the “conference handshake.” Before the Justices go to the Bench and before any private conference, each Justice shakes the hand of the other 8 and looks he or she in the eye. This is to remind them “that no matter if they disagree, they are all on the same team,” our tour guide told us.
Later in the trip we got to attend the Army Navy football game, which is also full of tradition. My favorite is that at the end of the game, no matter who wins, each team goes and stands before the other’s fans to listen to them sing their Alma Mater. Like in the Court, this reminds them that no matter who won the game, they are all on the same team.
That is a truth we have got to cling to when we watch the news, or read the news on our favorite Social Media site, or talk to a family member we don’t agree with, or hear about something that happened in the news that shocks us–we are on the same team. Every human is a creation of God. We sin and we fall short and we listen to and spread lies, but at the end of the day, we have got to see each other as teammates, created equal. We should not be complacent. We should fight for our beliefs, but at the end of the day, we are all on the same team.
That is a truth I’m going to try to cling to in this time, and I hope you will as well.