Reflection May 24, 2020
"An Elegy for Trust and Truth" - by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Trust has been shredded in our times. Who can we trust? Where do we turn for truth and trustworthy information? The bleak and lonely landscape in which we, Americans, now find ourselves is truly apocalyptic and deadly-dangerous.
Does not the present echo the words of the long-ago prophet Micah: “Put no trust in a friend, have no confidence in a loved one; guard the doors of your mouth from the one who lies in your embrace.“ (Micah 7:5)
I wish things were different. I wish we had leaders who served us rather than themselves. I wish we had leaders who didn’t believe that telling the truth is an abomination.
How is it that we harbor so many who blindly obey leaders who have sold their souls for silver? When did meanness become a political strength, a political strategy? When did polarization become endemic to our fractured society? When did we become so deeply addicted to crazy conspiracy theories? What has happened to the soul of our country?
We’ve lost the ability to talk to each other. We demonize those who see things differently than we see them. And, of course, I’m right and you’re wrong. God is on MY side. YOU are the spawn of the devil!
It’s true that I’ve encountered evil in my life. It’s true that I’ve seen evil sweep many of us away in a flood of deceit and duplicity. I don’t claim to be among the fully-redeemed. I don’t fashion myself as saintly. I’m still trying to become converted.
I’m pretty certain my dying words, if I’m able to say them, will be: “My God, have mercy on me a sinner!” These words should be on the lips of every dying soul.
I believe this ancient prayer is the most important and powerful prayer available to us. It would be a good final prayer each and every night as we lay down to rest. But this prayer needs to be uttered with honest humility.
Over my many years of ministry, I’ve encountered those who carry their sins with a certain arrogance. Strange as this sounds, I’ve witnessed people bragging about their sins! Certain misguided, maladapted, people love letting you know how they “beat the system” or how they’ve conned others.
These are often the privileged who glory in suing. These are often the privileged who don’t pay any taxes because of shady accountants. These are the privileged whose hands seem clean because they pay others to do their dirty-work. These are the privileged who divide and conquer. These are the privileged who have corrupted our country. These are the privileged who hold us all hostage!
When did we start allowing our leaders to lie to us with such complete abandon? Of course, we’re conflicted because of our deeply-imbedded confirmation bias. We love it when someone says something we agree with. We hate it when someone says something that disputes our beliefs.
Truth is not loved in our land. I’m not sure truth was ever loved anywhere in our long history. Truth is always a casualty of most politics.
Truth, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be trusted. We prefer the slick sell, the con artist, to the truth-sayer. Pilate’s infamous question (John 18:38) “What is truth?” echoes through the centuries.
But without truth, there can be no trust. Truth and trust are tied at the deepest level. I’m deeply disturbed to live in a time when lies have gained the upper hand. Many of our political, religious, business leaders coyly cry: “What is truth?”
I was heartened by something I read this week. This quote comes from the 14th Century mystic, Meister Eckhart: “What is truth? The truth is such a noble thing that if God were able to turn away from truth, I would cling to truth and let God go; for God is truth.” I’ve surely gone astray from time to time but one thing I can assert without hesitation is that I’ve always sought the truth, always tried to speak the truth, and allow truth access to my soul.
I wish I could see an end to this present morass. I wish I could generate more hope in my heart than it presently holds. The past weeks of social isolation have been hard on us. While I spend a fair amount of time every day on the phone, I miss human contact. I enjoy my two cats but, unfortunately, Molly Marie is dying.
We look to the future and shudder at what awaits us. Will we all have to suffer
through a bout of Covid-19? I do the best I can to stay home and stay safe. But what about my fellow citizens who claim the right to party even if I become collateral damage?
This crisis has made us suspicious of those we pass in our stores, those we pass on our streets, those who deliver our mail, our newspapers, our packages. Is it a surprise that we’re all suffering some form of paranoia?
I really want to visit my older brother downtown. I really want to visit my twin brother and my sister-in-law. I really want to see my beloved Vinal and get back to wonderful suppers at our favorite restaurants. I really want to plan trips to Boston to see my son, my daughter-in-law, and my (darling) three grandchildren.
I wish I could provide more hope here. Yet I do believe that behind everything, underneath everything, above everything, within everything lies the majestic abiding presence of God. Where does my hope abide? In God alone!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643