When Death is Near

This is some material adapted from the Mayo Clinic that I have used with families as they await the death of a friend or family member.  I hope you find this, and others coming, to be of help.

Caring for a dying loved one isn’t easy. Even when you know the end of life is near, you might feel unprepared emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Understanding and knowing what to expect — and what you can do to increase your loved one’s comfort — can help both you and the one you love. A pastor or others in pastoral ministry can be of help to you.

It’s difficult to predict exactly when someone will die. As death approaches, however, your loved one might show signs indicating that the end of life is near. Look for:

  • A loss of interest in friends or favorite activities.  There may be glazed eyes with no sign of recognition. Do not take this personally, for there is no awareness of your presence.
  • Drowsiness, sleeping more, or having intermittent sleep.
  • Restlessness and agitation.While sleeping, the person might frequently change positions or pull at the bed covers or pajamas. Sometimes this can be a sign of pain.
  • Loss of appetite.Your loved one might eat and drink less than usual.  Trying to force them to eat or drink can cause food and water to be sucked into the lungs and  pneumonia or other breathing problems could develop. It is normal to want to feed them, for we feel guilty, thinking we are not caring for them properly.
  • Pauses or other changes in breathing.This could happen when she is asleep or awake.
  • Reports of seeing someone who has already died.Sometimes he may also tell you that he has seen Jesus, or heard music, or has seen a friend or family member who has died.
  • She might also experience a brief, final surge of energy. Though it can be confusing to see her with renewed vitality, remember that this is often a normal part of dying. If it happens, take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy her and say your final goodbyes.

For many families, keeping vigil near a dying loved one’s bed is a way to show support and love. If you decide to keep vigil, continue talking to your loved one, for hearing is one of the last things dying people lose.  They can hear when there is no evidence of connection with the external world, so take care what you talk about at the bedside.

If you think he or she would want to share this time with others, invite family members or close friends to show their support as well. Express your love, but also let your loved one know that it’s OK to let go and be with Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Does No One Care for You?

This blog originally was a meditation on Psalm 142 prepared for patients in a psychiatric evaluation hospital ward. I suggest you read Psalm 142 in a modern translation to get the full meaning of the meditation. I used the Good News Translation.

Several years ago, I visited a small village in Spain where every family lived in its own cave! They had all the conveniences of a house, but it was still a cave. At another time I visited a cave in France that had been used as a French prison. They turned off all lighting so we could experience absolute darkness. I didn’t know darkness could be so dark.

Caves are interesting places to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live in one. I enjoy a cave if there are lights and safe paths to guide you, but if they shut off the lights, it would be just plain spooky to spend a night in a cave

David wrote this Psalm while hiding in a cave in fear of King Saul. Twice David has had to flee to a cave for fear his life. David had been favored by Saul, but now things have changed. Instead of acceptance, there is rejection and animosity. Instead of having the king’s favor, David is hated and hunted.

Few, if any of us, has had to take refuge in a cave. But most of us have been in David’s metaphorical cave of loneliness and despair. When he uses words like “complaints” and “troubles” [verse 2], we know how he feels.

He is ready “to give up” and his enemies have “hidden a trap” for him [verse 3]. He has no on to help him or protect him. David looks around and feels there is “no one to help me, no one to protect me” [verse 4]. He cries out, “No one cares for me” [verse 4]. David is “sunk in despair” [verse 6]. In verse 7 he asks God to free him from his “distress.” That word could also be translated as “prison,” so he is saying, “Free me from prison. . . .”

You may feel that you are in the cave of loneliness and despair. You may feel that there is no one to help you. You may feel you are in prison and no one cares for you. You may feel friends and family don’t understand what you are feeling, and they deny you your feelings.

Throughout the psalm, David uses first person singular: “I call to the Lord,” “I bring him my complaints.” This continues through the psalm. This teaches me that faith in God must be personal. The faith of your parents will not do when you find yourself in a cave of depression and despair. The faith of a wife or husband may be sufficient for them, but their faith will not get you through the dark. You must know God personally through Jesus Christ, and if you are to call on God, you must know him personally.

Your faith must be strong enough that you can stand alone when you leave hospital. It is wonderful when you have friends and family who support you and pray for you, but that may not always be the case. You may still feel rejected, alone, and unloved.

I don’t know whether David was in the cave by himself or that there were others with him. He may have been surrounded by his own fighting men and still felt the way he did. Sometimes you and I can be in the midst of a crowd of people and feel as if we are the only person there.

You don’t have to be in the same circumstances as David to have his same feelings. You may feel trapped and alone in a cave of guilt. Sometimes you know you have done something wrong and feel guilty. You feel isolated from friends and family. You feel isolated from God – that is healthy and can lead to healing when we confess our wrong doing.

However, many times we can feel guilty without having done anything wrong. This can paralyze us because we cannot think of any reason why we should have these feelings. Our sense of guilt continues to grow and we feel trapped in our cave.

There is a way out of your cave. David said, “he knows what I should do” [verse 3]. Be honest in your talk with God; tell him exactly how you feel. Admit your own insufficiency and God’s all-sufficiency. Prayer is a way to recognize and verbalize your needs and to become prepared to receive from God what you ask for.

Let your loneliness, gloom, and despair make you cry out to God to bring your soul out of prison, so you will be able to give thanks to God’s name. The Lord knows where you are. Ask him to save you, spiritually for eternity, and from the cave you are living in right now.

Prehistorical Peoples

The term “prehistoric peoples” may seem strange to some of you. It simply means people who existed before written history and are generally listed as either Homo neanderthalis, Homo erectus, or Homo sapiens. According to Ian Tattersall, homo sapiens is the species to which all modern human beings belong and is one of several species grouped under the genus Homo. But it is the only one that is not extinct. The name homo sapiens means “wise man,” and was created by Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern biological classification, in 1758 CE. The Latin noun homo means “human being” and sapiens is the Latin participle that means “discerning, wise, sensible.”

There is evidence that perhaps Homo neanderthalis and Homo sapiens existed at the same time briefly. Israel is one of the only places in the world where skeletons of both populations are found in adjacent sites—in several caves on Mt. Carmel and in the Galilee. Thus, a wide variety of studies regarding the origins of modern humans (our species) and the demise of the Neanderthals focus on remains in Israel. It is also no surprise that the cluster of prehistoric caves on Mt. Carmel was recently declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

How Do We Learn About Prehistoric People?

Obviously, we are limited in our knowledge of prehistoric people because we have no written records to help us. Our information comes primarily through archaeology, but some information also comes from the field of anthropology. Both of these fields use scientific tools in making their discoveries.

Archaeology is basically the study of humanity and its past through the excavation of sites. Archaeologists study things that were created, used, or changed by humans. They do this by studying the material remains — the stuff we leave behind, such as tools, pottery, jewelry, stone walls, dwellings, and monuments. The goal of archaeology is to understand how and why human behavior has changed over time.

Some archaeologists were interested in the individuals, nations, and geographical places mentioned in the Bible. Consequently, the field of biblical archaeology was developed and the first biblical archaeologists set out to discover if the Bible was a reliable source of information. As a result, biblical archaeologists have verified many of the places, names, and events through archaeological digs. Though archaeology is the primary way to reconstruct a real-life context for the biblical world, archaeology can never prove any of the theological suppositions of the Bible. Archaeologists can often tell you what happened when and where and how and even why, but no archaeologist will tell anyone what it means. To do so would go beyond the purpose and method of archaeology.

Prehistoric People and the Bible

Some Christians may feel uncomfortable thinking about prehistoric people for whom we have no written records. Where do we find them in the Bible? Since the Book of Genesis is the flashpoint, we should approach the book as an ancient document, and use only the assumptions that would be appropriate for the ancient world to gain understanding.” God gave his authority to human authors to record his message and share it with the world,” writes Walton, “so we must consider what the human author intended to communicate if we want to understand God’s message. . . . We must understand how the ancients thought and what ideas underlay their communication.”

The ancients were concerned with questions about the mysteries of life, such as: Who made the world? How will it end? Where do we come from? Who was the first human? What happens when we die? Why does the sun travel across the sky each day? Why does the moon wax and wane? Why do we have annual agricultural cycles and seasonal changes? Who controls our world, and how can we influence those beings so our lives are easier? The first eleven chapters of Genesis are the answers of ancient people to those questions based upon their understanding of the Creator God and his purposes.

We ask the same questions today, but ancient people answered those questions differently than we do, and we have to interpret scripture according to the answers that they gave and recorded for us. We do a disservice to scripture when we impose a 21st century mindset upon these ancient thought forms. Because of God’s revelation in Jesus the Christ, Christ followers in the 21st century have a knowledge and understanding of God and his purposes and a knowledge of the universe that ancient people did not and could not have.

Christians who take the Bible seriously believe that God inspired the thoughts of the writers when they wrote the Bible, but the words used are tied to the writer’s world and his understanding of God and God’s purposes. The Bible was not written to us; but it was written for us. What message did the biblical writers send? What was the message the first readers received? When we understand that, we can discover what the message should be for us today. Since we are far removed from the original sacred writings, it is very possible that we could misunderstand the communication that is intended.

The authority of Scripture comes from what the Bible affirms, and its affirmation is that (1) God has wanted a people to call his own, (2) God took the initiative and continually seeks those who would be his, and (3) there are consequences when humans refuse to be God’s people. Some theologians refer to this as “salvation history,” and this affirmation of salvation is rooted in the culture and thought patterns of the world in which Old and New Testament writers lived. The Bible is a book of faith, so there should be nothing contrary to Christian belief and the authority of the Bible in studying ancient people and trying to understand how they thought and communicated.

Prehistoric People and Religion

Since Neanderthals are our nearest human cousins, according to geneticists, we shall start our journey with them. One of the hottest topics in scientific research right now involves determining just how intelligent Neanderthals were. For years, the prevailing view was that Neanderthals were primitive, poorly developed brutes when compared to modern humans, only capable of expressing themselves in grunts and groans. Discoveries in the last few years have really brought this assumption into question.

Though extinct, the Neanderthal species of human beings is closely related to modern humans. Recent genetic studies show the DNA of Neanderthals differs from that of modern humans by just 0.12%. There are some anatomical differences between Neanderthals and modern humans, and changes in climate, diet, and disease control could account for these differences.

However, archaeologists have discovered evidence of a Neanderthal culture, and if archaeologists are correct, people were worshipping 50,000 years ago. Archaeologists have unearthed Neanderthal graves containing weapons, tools and the bones of a sacrificed animal. All of these suggest some kind of belief in a future world that would require these tools.

An approach combining a global field recovery and the reexamination of the previously discovered Neanderthal remains has been undertaken in the site of La Chapelle-Aux-Saints (France), where the hypothesis of a Neanderthal burial was raised for the first time. This project has concluded that the Neanderthal of La Chapelle-Aux-Saints was deposited in a pit dug by other members of its group and protected by a rapid covering from any disturbance. These discoveries attest to the existence of West European Neanderthal burial and of the Neanderthal cognitive capacity to produce it.

The Neanderthal graves show that when these early people became conscious of their mortality they created some sort of explanation that enabled them to come to terms with death and dying. The animal bones indicate that the burial was accompanied by a sacrifice. In the Neanderthal graves, the corpse has sometimes been placed in a fetal position, the correct spiritual or psychological posture for right action in this world or the next. Some 50,000 years ago, someone took great care to dig a grave for this unknown person and to protect his body from scavengers. all of which suggest some kind of belief in a future world that was similar to their own. The Neanderthals may have told each other stories about the life that their dead companion now enjoyed. They were certainly reflecting about death in a way that their fellow-creatures did not. Animals watch each other die but, as far as we know, they give the matter no further consideration. The Neanderthal graves show that when these early people became conscious of their mortality, they created some sort of counter-narrative that enabled them to come to terms with it. The Neanderthals who buried their companions with such care seem to have imagined that the visible, material world was not the only reality. From a very early date, therefore, it appears that human beings were distinguished by their ability to have ideas that went beyond their everyday experience.

Excavations at Raqefet Cave on Mt. Carmel have revealed a number of fascinating insights in prehistoric Israel. Archaeological investigations show that the Natufians—hunter-gatherers living 15,000–11,600 years ago in the Levant—held feasts at the burial sites of the deceased and decorated the graves with flowers.  Excavations at ancient sites all over prehistoric Israel have yielded, among other things, stone tools, butchered animals, and evidence for the control of fire.

As Barbara J. King has noted, religion is best understood both as practice and belief. In more advanced cultures, practice and belief may also include sacred texts that prescribe a set of beliefs. When texts are involved, what a person believes about a god or sacred forces really matters. In many human societies, past and present, though, there is no text. Everyday life involves appeasing gods or spirits, honoring the ancestors, and a sense of the sacred and/or the supernatural. “It’s within this context,” writes King, “that the case for Neanderthal religion — for ritual practices steeped in connecting to the sacred world — is most convincingly made.”
To support the possibility of Neanderthal religion, King refers to the Gobekli Tepe, a massive hilltop site in Turkey. After carving limestone pillars with all sorts of animal images, they hauled the 16-ton stones into multiple huge rings without the help of wheeled vehicles or domesticated animals. The Gobekli Tepe people carried out symbolic and sacred activities on a hilltop they adorned with massive architecture — 5,000 years before Stonehenge. What forms those religious practices took are unknown at this point.

——————

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009): 15.

Barbara J. King, “Were the Neanderthals Religious?” Cosmos and Culture 13, no. 7, December 16 (2016). https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/12/07/504650215/were-neanderthals-religious.

How Am I Thinking?

Critical thinking is not merely a bag of tools for a person to use within an academic course.  Nor are critical thinking tools a way of arguing to silence an opponent. Critical thinking is thinking about our thinking in everyday life.  The Paul-Elder approach to critical thinking states it like this:

Whenever people reason, they reason for a purpose, in answering a question or given set of questions; they use information, in making inferences and coming to conclusions; they take certain beliefs for granted (make assumptions) in conceptualizing situations and experiences; they reason from some point of view; and there are implications of their thinking.

In problem solving I am given a problem and asked to solve it.  Critical thinking is problem solving, but it is more than problem solving.  Some issues are too ill-defined or ill-formed to be problems, but they do require critical thought, such as reading an editorial.

I have to ask: why is the editor writing this? What are the sources of his or her information and are they reliable? What are the inferences being made and what conclusions are reached?  What is the conceptual framework of his or her argument and the assumptions being made?   What is his or her point of view?  What are the implications of his point of view?

Now, I think through the editorial, not to build an opposing argument, but to understand what the editor is writing. To respond intelligently to the editor, I must be aware of the concepts, point of view, etc. that I hold.  If the editor has a conclusion better than mine about the issue, then I should be open to changing and/or revising my thinking.

On a personal level, I have studied, and continue to study, both science and the Bible. A question arises: how did the universe originate?  I might assume there are major conflicts between what I learn from science with what I learn from the Bible.  Or I could assume there are no conflicts, or only few conflicts. The point of view, concepts, and assumptions I hold color the conclusions I reach.

I understand the naturalist view of creation just happening by chance and respect it.  However, my thinking processes have led me to conclude that there is a God who, over a long period of time, has been creating, and continues to create, the universe, and that the Big Bang theory is currently the best explanation for how God began to create.  I have concluded, too, that the naturalist view of creation is basically a philosophical interpretation of scientific data, just as my conclusions are basically a theological interpretation.

In a polarized world, we must do more than simply throw stones at one another or that we must win the debate.  No one has complete knowledge and not all ideas are equal.  So, part of my critical thinking is to continually look for those answers that are better.

 

Jesus Gives Rest

Jesus said,

28 Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.

– – – – –

Where do you rest best? In your own bed? In a hotel or a bunk bed or a sleeping bag? Think of times you have been unable to rest.  Maybe you have wanted a nap, but it was in the middle of your workday.  Maybe you had to stay late at the job to finish a project.  Maybe you were worried, or you did something wrong and a guilty feeling kept you awake.  What is the hardest work you have done that made your body tired?

 In the Scripture, Jesus is describing what many of us often experience: being tired and carrying heavy loads. In both the Old and New Testaments, the word for “tired” means to be exhausted.

Today we would call this stress.  Stress is a response to pressure or threat. Under stress we may feel tense, nervous, or on edge. The stress response is physical, too.  Stress triggers a surge of a hormone called adrenaline that temporarily affects the nervous system.

 How does our body react when we get stressed

 Our bodies may respond in a variety of ways: shoulders get tight, chest hurts, headaches, can’t focus, sometimes feel nausea, or may be grouchy.  When stressed, we are overloaded in our mind – in our spirit – in our emotions.

When a circuit breaker in our home becomes overloaded, it breaks, and we have no electric power.  We have to remove from the electrical circuit whatever was overloading it and reset the circuit breaker.

Our stress can become so great, that we begin to feel like a circuit breaker ready to blow.  Unfortunately, sometimes people do blow.  In order to recover, they must remove from their lives whatever is causing the emotional and physical overload and reset their lives.

How do we deal with stress?

The Mayo Clinic Staff recently published an article in which they said, “A less tangible — but no less useful — way to find stress relief is through spirituality.”  We need spiritual rest, as much as we need physical rest. We need release from worry, tension, stress, guilt, fear, bitterness, and anxiety.

When stresses and problems weigh us down, the most natural response for the Christian is to ask God for relief: “Lord, I can’t carry this anymore. I’m going to leave it here with You.” So we dump the burden on God like a bag of garbage, and walk away with nothing unchanged inside.  It is like resetting the circuit breaker without removing whatever is overloading the electrical circuit. We cannot be free from carrying heavy loads without letting some of those loads go.

Jesus said, “Come . . . take . . . learn. . . .”  It is an invitation to receive rest for the soul.  We come to Him, we take His yoke, and we learn of Him.

A yoke is a symbol of partnership 

Jesus doesn’t have a load to give you.  When you take Jesus’ yoke, there are two of you working on your stress, and not just one. Jesus says, “I will help you out with your problems. I will help carry your load.” He doesn’t add to your load. He doesn’t take all of our load.  He says, “I’ll share your load.”

Our load begins to lighten as we learn to know and understand the Lord. The burden may not be removed, but our thoughts and responses change as we begin to trust the

Christ, believe His promises, and rely on His power. Half, or more, of the weight of our stress then shifts from our shoulders to His, and we will discover relief, though the cause of our stress may not change.

A yoke is a symbol of control. 

We can use our human freedom to become yoked to a person or a thing that proves to be harmful to us.  People use drugs, alcohol, and sex, thinking they will have release from stress.  However, these activities can increase a person’s stress.

Where oxen are yoked together they are controlled by the master. When you are yoked with Jesus the load is lighter.  When yoked with Christ we move together in the same direction and at the same pace.  When you are yoked to Jesus you can’t go in a different direction than Jesus goes.  He sets both the direction and the pace. 

What is the rest that Jesus gives?

 The word in the original language of the New Testament means to refresh one’s self rest, to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect one’s strength.

 By being Jesus’ disciples we are doing his work.  He is saying it is easy work, with a light burden.  This does not mean the work won’t make us tire.  But good rest will ease the good tiredness we feel.

Doing Jesus’ work means things such as being honest, putting other people first, being generous, forgiving people who ask us, sharing what we have, giving to God in worship, being loving and caring for others. Do you relax better after you know you did something badly or after you know it did a good job?

Questions to think about

  • What heavy loads are you carrying?
  • How would you describe the kind of rest you need?
  • What are some things that cause you to have stress?
  • What can you do to remove stress producing things from your life?
  • What do you need to learn from Jesus to become less stressful?
  • What are you willing to give up in order to have the rest you need?

 

 

We Are What We Think

In Mark 7, Jesus is confronted by religious leaders who asked: “Why is it that your disciples do not follow the teaching handed down by our ancestors, but instead eat with ritually unclean hands?” (Mark 7:5). This requirement is not in the original law given by Moses.  While quite detailed, Jewish law leaves room for interpretation in many situations.  Out of a desire to obey God, the Pharisees, established rules to clarify the law in those situations.  Over time, these rules became known as The Tradition of the Ancestors, and were thought to be equal to the law and scriptures.  A person would be ritually unclean if they disobeyed any one of these teachings.

Jesus uses this opportunity to show what really makes a person unclean.  It was not because a person failed to scour pots and pans before cooking or wash hands before eating that they became unclean. There is nothing that goes into you from the outside which can make you ritually unclean,” said Jesus. “Rather, it is what comes out of you that makes you unclean” (vv. 15-16).   The disciples did not understand, so Jesus clarified what he meant: Nothing that goes into you from the outside can really make you unclean, because it does not go into your heart but into your stomach and then goes on out of the body” (vv. 8b-9a).

In Jewish thinking of the day, the heart was thought to be the center of the human soul or mind.  The heart was where thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, and endeavors originated.  This is the idea behind Proverbs 23:7, where it tells us: As a man thinks within himself, so is he. If what we think makes us who we are, we need to examine very carefully what and how we think.

This biblical concept is what many cognitive psychologists would say today.  I like to describe this as Mind-Talk, your inner conversation as you think.  Mind-Talk is what you tell yourself about the people and events in your life. It’s how you interpret what happens to you and around you. Sometimes these thoughts are clear statements in your mind; sometimes they are fleeting images or impressions.  Some of us have even been known to talk out loud to ourselves. Whichever kind of thinking process you have, you’re not alone. Everyone talks to themselves inwardly.

It is important that we take a close look at our Mind-Talk, because it shapes our attitudes, our feelings, and our beliefs. Why do we feel like this or feel like that?  It is because we get our feelings by the process of Mind-Talk. We interpret what is happening around us and draw conclusions based on our interpretation, and those conclusions produce feelings or emotions. (I am not distinguishing between emotions and feelings here, though there are valid reasons for doing so.)

Most people believe that outside events, other people, or circumstances cause and shape the way we feel, our behavior, and our responses. But that’s not true! Our thoughts – our conclusions – are the source! When I first discovered this, I didn’t like it one bit. “Wait a minute,” my defense mechanisms wailed, “if this is true, I can’t blame anyone else for how I feel, what I say or even what I do! I am responsible!” You might not like this any better than I did, but hang with me. It gets worse . . . and then a whole lot better.

Here are some truths we don’t act like we believe. There is a very good reason we don’t want to believe these truths:  they force us to face our personal responsibility. These truths are:

  • Most of our emotions (our feelings) – anger, hurt, depression, guilt, worry, happiness, well-being, contentment, etc. – are homegrown in our Mind-Talk.
  • Whether the emotions we are feeling are good or bad, they start in our minds, and they grow in our minds. Our problems multiply when we act out these feelings in socially unacceptable ways.
  • The way we behave toward others is shaped by our own Mind-Talk and not by the behavior of others. We make assumptions and judgments about what’s going on and why, and then act on them. We cannot blame other people for the way we act toward them. (Yikes, this one is really painful, isn’t it?)
  • What we say and how we say it (our words and attitudes) are motivated and driven by our Mind-Talk. Think about this for a moment. Our feelings, our behavior, our attitudes, and even the way we talk with others (that just about sums us up, doesn’t it?) all come from our Mind-Talk. WOW! No wonder the Bible speaks about it so often. I can paraphrase Proverbs 23:7 like this: “As I think within myself, so am I.”

Here are some things to think about:

  • God does not control your mind; you are free to think and feel as you choose.
  • How do you think about God? Your world?  Yourself? What kinds of feelings do these thoughts produce?
  • How do you need to change your thinking about God, about your world, and about yourself, so you can see everything differently and can change your behavior?
  • You can change the way you think by choosing what you think about.
  • You can change the way you think by asking God to help you think in new and positive ways.
  • Remember these words of the Apostle Paul:

Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, . .  (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Living in a Post-Truth America

I have no idea who coined the phrase, “Post-Truth World.” An email invitation tosubscribe to Scientific American had this as a headline: “Reject a Post-Truth World,” and that is when I saw it for the first time.

This is the way Scientific American described this new world:

Advances in science elevate all humanity, but science and journalism are under siege. 

Special interests distort facts and evidence to serve narrow economic and political goals. 

Pseudoscience and falsehoods are widely disseminated through a pernicious amalgam of

Tweets, fake news, and bluster.

 

The last round of elections at every level gave ample evidence that we have arrived

full grown to a post-truth nation.  Perhaps we need to think about truth.  Pilate asked the Christ, “What is truth?” and that has perhaps been a basic question of humankind.

 

One distortion of truth in the election campaign was to make a personal attack of the opponent rather than attack the position he or she held.  An opponent was given a label that was negative or unsavory in the minds of the electorate, such as “liberal,” “oil baron,” ”shady bank executive,” etc.  This could lead people to vote for or against another candidate based upon personality or a label rather than the candidates principles and political position.

 

Another political distortion is the half truth.  I can define it by an example.  Several years ago the leader of a Protestant denominational agency was accused of being in favor of abortion.  This would be amoral and ethical position at odds with his denomination.  To prove the charge, his opponents quoted his words, “Free choice is a wonderful thing.”  That could mean only one thing: he favored abortion.

 

I researched the literature, and sure enough, the man had said, “Free choice is a wonderful thing.” But the article he had written had nothing to do with abortion. The word abortion did not appear even once.  He was writing about religious experience and the fact that God gives us free choice to acknowledge Him or not.  To the writer, the ability of humans to have God-given moral freedom of choice was a wonderful thing.

 

A popular notion today is that all ideas are equally valid.  In a free society you can believe what you want to believe and that belief is so personal that we do not question it.  In fact, I have had students who had no idea of how to question or evaluate an idea.

 

We live in a world of ideas, but there are some ideas that are better than other ideas.  We  need to know how to evaluate ideas and to recognize which ideas are the better ones.

 

 

I started out writing about truth.  In my next blog I will pursue “truth” in relation to the notion that all ideas are equal.