Monthly Article 'The Vicars View'
I think that it is safe to say that over this past few weeks we have all seen the most extraordinary of political dramas played out within our Parliament. The intrigue, deceptions and political manoeuvrings would no doubt suit the plot of a great Tom Clancy or John le-Carre Political thriller and would all be very exciting except of course for the sad fact that this is indeed not fiction at all but one of the greatest constitutional Crisis of recent British Political history.
As I was preparing this piece the Sky news Political commentator had just uttered the words ‘Now it all just depends on who you think you can TRUST’ and I was reminded of a lecture I went to recently entitled ‘The Age of ‘Post Truth’ which is by the way, the ‘Age’ that many academics are now suggesting we are living in at the present time. We’ve lived through the Age of the enlightenment, the Age of Modernism and in the late 20th Century the age of Post Modernism, now we live in the ‘Age of Post Truth’ and this new description of our current cultural situation has a specific application to the current Political approach of the day and relating quite specifically to a Political Culture in which debate is now framed by appeals to the emotions rather than to the truth. As such facts and indeed truth itself are considered to be of a secondary importance in any attempt to persuade people to back a particular approach or ideology and any contradictory factual responses to such policies are either ignored or simply denied by those in authority. If we look at the way that President Donald Trump communicates as an example we find that whenever facts are revealed about his personal life or about his Political Policies which are unpleasant or likely to damage his reputation and agenda his response is to simply say ‘Fake News’ and to repeat this phrase ad infinitum until the allegation disappears from the media. Truth then is less relevant and the true motives behind certain political actions are, even when obvious, simply denied, lying is therefore also perfectly acceptable if it achieves the desired end result and what’s perhaps even more troubling than this is that as this ‘Post truth’ culture has deepened its hold on our society we seem to have got to the stage where many of us, that is the voting public, don’t actually expect anything different anyway! The old Joke ‘How do you know that a Politician is lying? ‘Answer’ ‘because he’s opening his mouth to speak’ has now become (however true or not that may actually be) the popular belief within society, which is indeed deeply worrying. In this ‘Post Truth Age’ we have it seems almost acquiesced to this state of affairs. Simply ask yourself how many of us nowadays actually expect our political representatives to be telling the truth? How may of us actually believe the promises that our Political leaders make, for example, at election time? Can it really be true at the moment that within the space of 2 weeks the need for austerity in this country has miraculously come to an end? Or is it simply advantages to suggest this now because there will soon be a general election? We expect our Political leaders to be lying and furthermore we are becoming immune to it! As our Sky news presenter said – ‘It all now depends on who you think you can trust’ the trouble is that it’s starting to look as if we don’t trust any of our political leaders and the implications of this are surely obvious and should be deeply worrying.
In the Teachings of the Bible ‘Truth and Trust’ are conversely considered to be of the highest value, because the ideas of Truth and Trust are recognised in scripture, to be central to the concepts of relationship, justice, security, love and hope, aspects of life that are essential to our own and societies physical, emotional and indeed Spiritual well-being, without the experience of Truth and Trust we simply cannot have any real security. Without the ability to grasp the truth in any given scenario we lose the ability to make decisions and form meaningful relationships, whether these are personal, societal or political, and our lives as a consequence start to become more isolated and powerless, which leads to the breakdown of these relationships, to loneliness and depression. Truth and Trust are absolutely essential to our well-being and Jesus in his teachings new this as well, in John’s Gospel chapter 14 Jesus calls on his disciples to discover, whatever their own situations might have been, an experience of truth and trust in him.
Do not let your hearts be troubled’ he says, ‘trust in God and Trust also in me’ --- ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the life’ (John 14)
In his teachings Jesus offered his disciples and offers to us today an anchor of Truth and Trust for our lives, he is the rock, the one within this age of uncertainty to whom we can indeed look for truth, meaning and trust. Through him, (if we seek to discover him within our lives) we can re-discover a relationship, morality, a focus and a life style in which these fundamental values of truth and trust, (which as I have suggested actually shape our well-being and very existence) can re-gain the standing that they should indeed hold within our lives and through our witness to and of this experience can spread into the world in which we live. We are, after all Jesus said, the light of the world and the salt of the earth, our role can be to preserve these values of Justice, Truth and Trust within our own Churches, Community and society. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are the ‘Body of Christ’ on earth or as Mother Teresa says ‘God has no hands but our hands, no voice but our voice’ and so on, our witness then to this experience can be a powerful and positive influence. The question of course for all of us is HOW do we discover this truth and Trust in Jesus? How do we allow Jesus to refocus our lives and bring to us the healing, wholeness and direction that only such Truth and Trust can provide? If we go back to the reading from John chapter 14 we find that the disciple Philips answer to this question was simple “Show us the Father” he said “and that will be enough” he asks Jesus show him the presence of God! Why? Because Philip as a good Jew already trusted God. In his historical experience and Faith God was already known to be the perfect example of Justice, wisdom, power, and authority. If / when it all went wrong as a Jew Philip would have automatically cried out to God, calling upon his fairness Justice and Power over all things.
I can remember when I was aged around 10, I went on skiing Holiday to Belgium and whilst I was there I developed a terrible crush on another Girl on our trip – she dumped me and I was heartbroken and although I wasn’t a Christian my response was to go to a church yard in the Belgium village where we were staying and pray! So; even though I wasn’t at all religious, when there was no-one else to turn to, I turned to God and in my experience this is very often the case even with people who would never normally darken the doorstep of a Church, when the chips are down there is an instinctive response to turn to God and to pray, to hope that he is there, and that he can either help or at least help us to discover a deeper and more spiritual comprehension of our situation whatever that may be. It’s like it’s in our DNA. ‘Show us the Father and that will be enough’
We want to trust in God because deep down we know that despite everything God fulfils the definition, we have an inbuilt belief in the reliability, truth, and ability of God, he instils, confidence and belief. God does not and never will employ the political tactics of our 'Post Truth' culture, he will never appeal to our emotions to achieve his own agendas whilst sacrificing the ‘Truth’ of what he is really trying to achieve. In him we can find someone in whom there is a freedom from suspicion, he characterises certainty and assurance. In him we can indeed regain the moral compass and focus for our lives. In response to Philips plea Jesus tells Philip, ‘If you have seen me then you have seen God, the words that I speak are the words of God, the work I do is the work of God. The Father lives in me, speaks through me and works through me!!’ In Jesus then the disciples came to realise that they were living in the presence of this same God whom they already knew as completely trustworthy and true and by our Faith we can live in his divine presence to. Jesus can therefore truly say to us in this fragmented and difficult world “Do not let your hearts be troubled, Trust in God, Trust also in me”
Revd David W John