Truth Astray

29 04 2008

I used to write a weekly comment on the affairs of the week but gave up because it became too depressing! I am aware that for the last week or so I’ve been feeling the same again, as I have been watching the world. Truth it seems has gone on holiday.

For the last three weeks the world has been watching the antics of an aging dictator in Zimbabwe who has been throwing democracy to the wind and doing everything he can to discredit the elections (that obviously threw him out) and stay in control by violence. Truth means little to this little dictator.

Over roughly the same period the so-called Olympic torch has been providing the media with something to do as demonstrators around the world challenged the host nation, China, over its human rights violations in Tibet and elsewhere. Sadly few people have been saying much about the human rights violations in China itself, but then America has the shame of Guantanamo Bay and Britain has some highly questionable detention laws that the judiciary are pulling down, so perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much. But truth is far from the scene.

In America two Democrat contenders continue to slug it out and once again truth appears far away at times. Meanwhile back in Britain the contest for the new London mayor brings accusations of things sometimes not being exactly straight and above board in the Livingstone administration. The media has suggested several times over recent months that truth is far off here as well.

In the British House of Commons, truth has been under dispute in the row over MP’s expenses, and in the European Parliament, accusations of corruption continue to flow. As local government elections loom in Britain out comes a report from the Rowntree Trust saying the electoral system is close to collapse and the local and mayoral elections are vulnerable to large-scale fraud. Stories of such electoral fraud in the recent past seem to abound. At some point Britain has been compared to a ‘banana republic’ so bad has it been. Where have truth, honesty and integrity gone?

This catalogue of woes could go on and on in modern society and it is for this reason that I have been feeling very negative about writing anything at all on this blog in the last two weeks. I happened to read in Amos a couple of days ago, “the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil.” (Amos 5:13). This referred to a period in Israel’s life when it was so bad that good men shut up. I know what they felt!

I happened to run across this quote recently: “C.S.Lewis revealed the absurdity of expecting virtue from people who are taught that no virtue exists: “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” The Bible has a frightening simplicity: “A man reaps what he sows.” For decades now we have been sowing, “There is no God” and now we wonder why men and women struggle to find some absolute to replace Him on which to build their morals. As we are finding to our cost, all we are left with is relativism and that is like shifting sands. The lack of truth and absurdity is reaching levels I would never have dreamed possible twenty years ago.

I came across a good example of this in the Sunday Times a week back. There was a short article about a survey by the Rowntree Trust (yes, them again) with a heading, “Religion is ‘the new social evil’” and which went on to say, “A poll by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation uncovered a widespread belief that faith – not just in its extreme form – was intolerant, irrational and used to justify persecution.” I found that intriguing and so went to the Rowntree website and looked at their report.

You need to hear the context! The survey was, in fact, purely some 3000 plus people who had responded and who had expressed what they considered were a number of modern social evils. There were six main ones listed – 1. Individualism, consumerism and a decline of community, 2. Drugs and alcohol, 3. A decline of values, 4. Families and young people, 5. Inequality and poverty, 6. Institutions, apathy and a democratic deficit. There were also six other ‘concerns’, the third of which was ‘religion’. Religion, in other words, was ninth on the list of concerns!

When I turned to the religious section, which was somewhat brief, this ‘report’ started that section as follows: “There was disagreement among participants around the issue of religion. Some identified the decline of religion in society as a social evil. For some people what they see as the godlessness of contemporary society is inherently bad. Other participants saw the decline of religion as instrumentally bad, blaming it for the decline of values discussed earlier in this paper.” That seemed fairly positive to me!

Later on came, “A more dominant opinion, however, stood in stark contrast to this: some people identified religion itself as a social evil.” but the only evidence for this came in the form of one person said this and another person said something else. In a closing section supposed to be about negative view of religion, the last quoted comment from a respondent started out, “Religion itself is not a social evil. Quite the opposite.” Very confusing!

The confusion or lack of credibility of this report was seen in the early part of the Summary form of the Report which identified the following list as key concerns for the public: A decline of community: • Individualism: • Consumerism and greed: • A decline of values: • The decline of the family: • Young people as victims or perpetrators: • Drugs and alcohol: • Poverty and inequality: • Immigration and responses to immigration: • Crime and violence. Now I know some of those are a repeat of the earlier list but after this list came the following comment: “Government, media, big business and religion were believed to be responsible for these social evils.”

Just a minute! How is religion supposed to be a ‘social evil’ that is responsible for crime and violence – or any others in this list for that matter! Somebody there had a hidden agenda and wasn’t being too careful with the truth, and as for the Sunday Times columnist…..! I would suggest that each of the listed ‘social evils’ could be measured in their growth in direct proportion to the rejection of Christianity in this nation. Somebody, please, have a go at measuring it!

George Orwell’s, 1984 warned about the distortion of truth. We are living with it. I feel particularly incensed about this because most of the charities and other organizations that helped (and still do help) society a hundred years ago were fuelled by Christians. And this report dares lump such people in with terrorists! Gross negligence! Or something worse! There are seriously good reasons to believe in the historic foundations of the Christian faith, and seriously good reasons for rejecting the many philosophical ‘isms’ that are being put in its place, but are people willing to think these things through? Mostly, no! It’s easier to roll out unthinking mantras or join cowardly Pontius Pilate and ask, “What is truth?” That’s why I have been feeling depressed about this world recently. Sorry about that.

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