Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Pope, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Princes, and Their Pictures

I have seen several leftist websites and mainstream media sources (but then I repeat myself) promulgate the notion that Pope Francis was not happy when he met with President Trump recently as was reflected in their group photo.

Even my good friend Burr Deming at Fair and Unbalanced picked up on this new trendy left-wing meme on his site.

The problem is that not everything is as our brothers and sisters on the left would seem to want it to be.  Yes, a picture can say a thousand words, but when we look at all of the pictures, they also can tell a completely different story if we only take the time to truly look.

Here is a typical version of what the anti-Trump Left is posting.  They will first show a picture of President Obama standing next to a smiling Pope Francis and then contrast that picture with a dour looking Pope standing next to President Trump.  Of course the implication is that Pope Francis adores President Obama and is not pleased with President Trump.

But as Paul Harvey would say, here is the rest of the story.  It isn't hard to also find a picture of a seemingly displeased Pope standing next to many of the world's leaders, regardless of their political ideology.  

Below is a picture of a Canada's very leftist Prime Minister Trudeau smiling beside a seemingly grumpy Pope Francis.

Or how about this one where Israel's right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu is posing with a surly Pope Francis. 

Perhaps the apolitical (left-wing) Prince Charles would cheer up the Pope... or not.

Is it perhaps possible that Pope Francis simply doesn't typically smile for staged photographs?  There are myriads (more than two) of candid pictures of him smiling and laughing with numerous world leaders that are easily found on the inter-webs, but for the staged photographs, he presents a more stoic countenance that can be taken for a disapproving or grumpy attitude towards the official with whom he is being photographed.  

For those that attempt to make political points by pulling merely two pictures out of thousands in order to justify a talking point, they come off as being naive and self-deluding or perhaps even intentionally dishonest in their presentation of the facts.  I know beyond all doubt that it is not the latter but far more likely the former in the case with my friend Burr Deming.

I guess we sometimes need to stop and ask ourselves a question.  Is it possible that sometimes we only search long enough to see just what we wish to see and nothing more?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A World of 6.5 Billion Truths

Right or wrong.

There is a distinct and discernible difference between the two.   

This increasingly morally relativistic world would like us to think that it is comprised of 6.5 billion shades of gray, but honestly there are far more issues in the world that come down to a truly black or white decision than what we may believe; that come down to a choice between a falsehood or truth.  There is a right answer and a wrong answer.  There is the correct path and the path that leads to desolation.

I know— I know—

How presumptuous of me!  After all, I haven’t walked in your shoes so I don’t know what issues you have had to face. 

And that is true.  I haven’t walked in your shoes.  Perhaps I have been in similar circumstances and faced adversaries or dilemmas that were very much like the ones you have faced, but that doesn’t mean they are exactly the same.

But, that doesn’t mean that truth changes because circumstances are slightly different for you either.

I have often heard in recent years some version of “it’s her truth” or “that is the truth as he sees it”.  Well folks, that may or may not be THE truth.  Rather, that is their perspective. 

Truth is not subjective.  It simply is.  It is factual and unwavering, no matter how much one hopes to color it in deeper shades of gray with one’s own individual circumstances.  It does not change based on one’s gender, color, sexual orientation, political ideology, shoe size, or for which NBA team one cheers. 

God is Truth.

“Gasp!  Well what if I don’t believe in God?  What then?”

What then, indeed?  That is actually a very good question.  If my statement is correct that God is truth, and you don’t believe in God, then how do you define or determine what truth is?

When the Jewish priests handed Christ over to Pontius Pilate, they did so because Jesus challenged “their truth”. 
So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, "I find no guilt in him.”   ~John 18: 37-38
You can almost hear Pilate spit out his response, “What is truth?”  The irony is that The Truth was standing right before Pilate and was crucified because He contradicted the Romans’ and the Jews’ version of the truth.

But back to our original question.  If you don’t believe in Christ –in God- then how do you define and determine what is the truth?

Is our government the arbiter of truth?  As American’s we’d like for them to be, but honestly if you assume that simply because the government says it is so and therefore the truth, you will be sadly mistaken more often than not.

Do we look to teachers, professors, family, or friends to determine what is right and wrong ...what  is the truth?  Sometimes.  Sometimes we are met with wise counsel from these good people too.  But they are still human and therefore subject to the same foibles and failings that you and I are.  They can make mistakes, even when discerning what the truth is.  The wisest and most holy man or woman on earth can still be mistaken and lead one away from the truth.

“Exactly! So if I cannot count on anyone else to lead me to the truth and I don’t believe in God, then I guess I just have to count on myself to define my own truth.”

Easy there, Skippy! 

Do you really think you are going to be any less prone to errors in choosing between right and wrong and finding the truth than the wisest and most holy among us?  That is rather arrogant if one is searching for THE truth, instead of just a version that fits your specific wants, desires, and perceptions.

But if God is a myth and you cannot necessarily depend on others, then the only person you have to answer to is yourself, right?   This journey of yours is singular. It is a lonely walk that you must take by yourself. No one can guide you, direct you, or tell you which way to go. You alone must chart your course because you alone know your circumstances –your truth.  You get to decide what is right and true for you, even if it conflicts with what your parents, teachers, or society says is right and true.  After all, they aren’t living “your truth” in your circumstances, right?

It is in defining these alternate individual “truths” that we each come to justify our own immoral actions.  Shacking up with our girlfriend/boyfriend, living a homosexual lifestyle, promoting or procuring an abortion, lying, cheating, polluting our planet, or ignoring the least among us in need all become permissible if the ultimate arbiter of truth is ourselves – if we are the ones that determine what is true.

There are two faculties or powers of the immortal soul that are given to us by God.  They are reason and free will. Using our reason, we can think about things such as the morality of a proposed action as defined by God defined by the Truth. Using our free will, we can decide whether to do it. Faculties that we share with animals are senses and emotions. Our emotions are more varied and complex than those of animals, though there is no denying that my dog can be happy with his tail wagging at a frenzied pace as we play fetch or scared when he sees the car approaching the dreaded veterinarian’s office.

We call reason and free will higher faculties; emotions and senses are our lower faculties. It is a serious mistake, though one that is common in our culture, to allow the lower faculties to govern our actions. This leads us to believe that a proposed action must be good if it is pleasurable to our senses or if it makes us feel happy. I have heard individuals justify immoral acts by saying, “God wants me to be happy.” This is true, but there are acts that will give us momentary pleasure but not long-term happiness. God wants us to live in eternal happiness, and to use reason rather than emotion and sensual pleasure to guide us there.  Drugs, alcohol, or promiscuous sex may give us momentary pleasure, but in the long run will only lead us to more sorrow and misery.

All of us sinners have, to one degree or another, bought into the lie. At the heart of the lie—and we can see it in the Genesis account—is the deification of the ego. I become the center of the universe, I with my needs and my fears and my demands.  And when the puny “I” is the center of the cosmos, the tie that binds all things to one another is lost. The basic reality now becomes rivalry, competition, violence, and mistrust.  And The Truth is subjugated in the world to “my truth” and the varying “truths” of billions of other people whom fail to seek, acknowledge, and live by The Truth that is God.

In such a world, right and wrong are always relative.  In such a world there is no singular transcending all-encompassing Truth.

As for me and my family, we will always strive to serve the Lord ...and The Truth.