Ahh if only we could truly obey.
As those of you who read my blog AFeatherAdrift know, I’ve been reading Ayn Rand’s now infamous novel, Atlas Shrugged. It is a silly offering in most respects, wildly exaggerating the morality and virtues of the “creators” whom she identifies as the industrialists. (Ayn was writing in the 1950’s and was a refugee from Communist Russia)
In her book, progressives are painted as lazy wonderlust crazed pie-in-the-sky noodles, who in the name of equality, destroy the world by hemming in at every turn the producers of the world. While Rand herself gives way utterly when it comes to actual truth, in her “perfect” capitalist characters, she proclaims that truth above all must guide every decision. We must, she argues be ruthless in accepting our true motives, our true desires, and the world as it really is.
In this Jesus would agree.
And yet, among believers and non-believers alike, we find the world peopled increasingly by those who choose to see the world as they wish, and to act accordingly. Facts and truth are “relative” to what one wants them to be.
Some people torture the scriptures to “prove” what they already, for reasons understood or not, desire to be true. They refuse to see or accept even the simplest explanations of cosmological, biological, or environmental science. It’s ever so much nicer to find all one’s answers spelled out easily in a book.
Yet, Jesus spoke in parables, hardly a clear-cut method of conveying the truth. He recognized that we simply would never really get it unless we worked at it. It could not be handed to us on a platter. If it were, we would value it all the less. Faith, and the truth it can lead to, only come by serious effort.
It is necessary to peel the onion. Layer after layer of lie and masquerade must be systematically eliminated to reach the center. It is irritating and takes time. It can be extraordinarily painful. No one likes to see their deepest fears exposed, least of all to themselves. It is these fears that cause us to translate our beliefs into hatreds and prejudices. It is these that we try so hard to deny to ourselves and others. It is these that we seek “proofs” for that will allow us to feel justified.
These proofs almost never are factual nor truth. They are convenient truths, secured from those who trade in giving us what we want for a price, or are fellow travelers, suffering from the same fears. We learn who to listen to, to hear what we want to hear.
Truth is not dropped upon our doorstep. It must be sought. It must be cleaned of all the detritus that is layered on attempting to make it meet the needs of disparate ologies.
We must be ruthless, painful as it is.
God does not offer us a bunch of platitudes to live by, much as we would like that to be true. The stories of the bible are informing. They show us how people act, how they justify, and the bad outcomes that come from torturing the truth to fit one’s needs. They show us how people answer the big questions, how they sought them, and often how they misused them. This is what the bible does so extremely well.
The bible makes us think. It makes us cast our own troubles onto a similar story and look at how we are thinking and evaluating in juxtaposition. We strain the story and retain, hopefully, the moral lesson. And once we have it, we can then turn to our own trouble and let that moral guide us through the experience. It becomes our life-raft in a stormy sea. It allows us to keep our bearings in the storm, and finally arrive at the shore, battered and frightened, often realizing the decision is painful, but we are alive, still human from the experience.
We live in frightening times. Environmental, religious, political upheavals surround us. We are frightened as a nation, but more frightened as families. We feel insecure. We wish to blame. We wish to hold on with all our might to our assets. And we are prone to veer off course into immoral waters because of it. We are susceptible to the snake oil salesman and the con artist, whose profit comes from feeding us the lies we so want to believe are true.
Now is exactly the time to be most rigorous in our pursuit of truth. Let us not be swayed by the easy, the simple, the answer that makes us comfortable. It almost never is the truth. And survival, physical and spiritual, depend on truth. Jesus said so. Listen.