Who Holds the Truth?
Good Articulation does not make truth. The ability to shout down or argue better does not make truth. We live in an era of fake news and some say post truth or truthiness. So how are we to know truth? Truth is always tinged with love and never hate. People often want to say tough love is what someone needs. But their tough love is often not loving and therefore not truth.
I have trouble with those who are more concerned about borders and immigration laws than people. I do not think you speak truth if you care for a fetus you have never seen more than the mother you see. If you express your views always in harsh voices and derogatory comments about the other side you do not have truth. A Spanish philosopher once said being right is such a small thing. I would add to this it is what you do with the truth that matters. Do you use it to bludgeon others? Do you use it to control others? Do you use it for gain? Or do you use it to care for others? For truth is only the latter one is true.
You see in the end the articulate may have their way but if you act out of love you hold that which matters most. Love is always the greatest of all. Now someone will remind me that some good intentioned people do some bad things. But the one who really acts out of love will not say I am sorry only they will work to right their mistake. We can only do the best we can and when someone demonstrates that our best is wrong or hurting in love we try something new. Eventually through the ability to change and listen we will arrive at the right way. Sometimes our arrival may be later than most but the truth goes to the one who continues to seek it not to the complacent.
At certain times different groups of people have been leaders of truth but eventually they give it away. The African-Americans during the sixties and seventies were the prophetic communities. But the continual sexism, AIDS phobia and homophobia of the African-American community begin to make them as ever other group seeking power. Hopefully as more African-American women than men are graduates of colleges the community can return to hold the moral sway of a nation. Gay men briefly held the role in the nineties but their classism, misogyny, lost them this distinction. Latinos seem to hold it now but the machismo of their culture may ultimately cause them to lose this title.
As individuals our moral suasion can be powerful but we too can give it away. We can allow our prejudices to blind us to truth. We can allow our need for power and money to color our truth. We can allow our need for social status to create deaf ears to truth. We can allow our pride to rob us of our truth. It is easy to lose truth to so many things. A need to be right makes truth unable to penetrate our core of belief.
So in the end the truth you hold today may be gone tomorrow. It has to be rediscovered anew each day. And when discovered held onto with fierce determination and let loose with open hands when the time comes. Because our truths change or take on different nuances in different situations and times we find ourselves. This is probably what the Apostle Paul meant when he said ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’
This is the Holiday Season and on one of the holidays we celebrate a child’s birth who as a man bore truth. May we allow the Christ Child’s truth live and grow in us until the man’s truth is lived through us. So I am done and regretfully I cannot articulate it any better.
The Austerity Crowd
Have you heard? Savannah is cutting its budget. Income has remained flat they say. Therefore we have to cut the non-essentials such as social services and art. Why is it that the very Christian right always feels a need during hard times to cut the most vulnerable services? First off why are we cutting anything if income has remained flat? Why isn’t it nothing increases? Because we are increasing the budget in certain areas. Police officers and firefighters will be increased. All city employees’ salaries will be increased. None of these are bad things to see increased. It explains a lot, frankly, that a city that is experiencing twenty-six percent poverty and thinks social services are a place to cut has had this poverty problem for quite a while (thirty aught years at least). Poverty breeds crime and other social ills. Poverty of the percentage we have here in Savannah is an emergency, and social services that mitigate and rid this problem should be nurtured not have their budget cut.
Then there is the question of the arts. The arts are what make Savannah have a heartbeat. Where would we be without a Jazz Festival, Music Festival, Telfair Academy Programming, and the list goes on. Art has salvaged many a life born in poverty. Art helps develop a creative brain trust to help address the different issues a community may face. Art relieves the stress from our lives. Art puts money into our economy. So why are they the first to be cut?
So here is my cynical analysis. We have a new city manager. In the large company CEO world it is the trend for the CEO to come in and cut production costs. Thus a new CEO almost always guarantees a layoff. Production cost is cut and the shareholders are pleased and the CEO has become the hero. The new city manager comes to town; he must prove he is worth his money. What is the sign of a good city manager? A balanced budget and efficient government. What are the two constituencies with the least amount of clout: the poor and the art community? So it is easiest to cut there. What are usually everyone in favor of more police and fire protection? Even the artist and poor can get onboard with that. And how do you win favor with your new city employees come in giving them a much deserved raise. After a raise no employee will be criticizing the new boss for a while.
So you have lined your pocket with good will with most of the population. You have the ‘he will make the hard choices reputation established’. And now you are ready for a long honeymoon. When in fact you made no hard choices you have done what most will be happy with.
Why is income flat? Let me suggest a few things that have caused stress on our budget. One big one is Hurricane Matthew. But I have lived here over twenty-five years and hurricanes are rare here so this is a once maybe twice a lifetime expense. Another stressor for the cash flow has been the utilities billing not going out for a few months because the new programming was not working. Hopefully, this is not an experience that will be happening again. Projects that are over studied and cost money and delays that allow inflation to increase the cost of public infrastructure projects by indecision. Build an arena and new cultural leisure services building already. Good grief. Why do we need more police because our former police chief was corrupt and this has allowed the streets to be filled with gang activity and police officers to resign en masse. The money we had trained officers with was wasted. And now the streets have not been policed at full strength for so long we need an influx of extra officers to regain control of the streets. Yes it was high time we had a black police chief but gee whiz hire the best black police chief you can find not someone who you should have known had issues. This I could have respected. So now we are in a hopefully momentary crises of money brought by a rare occurrence of Mother Nature who we cannot control and bad governance which hopefully we can control.
It is my desire for the new city manager to work on good governance and not typical fiddling with the budget for our city needs this more than cuts to those agencies that will help Savannah move forward.
Trump's Classical Education
Trump lost among every minority group, lost the popular vote, has had an elector resign rather than vote for him. The electorate divided between urban centers and rural folks, educated and uneducated. But power, fame, and money makes people come to you. People like Romney who once said Trump could not lead America and would be disastrous for us comes calling looking to get back in the government game. Trump will do a drop of good and his sins will be forgiven and he will be thought great by those who voted for him. This is the great American way. The poor white and working class are always looking for the great white hope or a Messiah to deliver us. So talk big and white you might get elected.
One of the reasons I think we are in the great fix we are in the United States is the new push and yearning for classical training and education. I believe the western classical training taught leads to xenophobic attitudes. When you are taught that only European ways are the best you are more than likely to frown at people of other cultures and think unless they have totally assimilated to the white way they are inferior and need someone to take care or worse rule over them. Equal rights and voting rights are to be earned by the non-western people but ‘white’ people have their rights by virtue of being white.
A classical education becomes even more problematic in a world that has grown smaller. We are constantly bumping up against other cultures and if we are convinced ours is the only one with merit we can become an ugly American very fast. Two summers ago I spent two and a half months in Beijing the capital of China. It may come as a surprise to some they have an older, more complicated, diverse and amazing culture than we Americans may think. The first system of meritocracy was in China led by the bureaucrat and religious leader Confucius. The concept that nepotism and classism should not be the qualifications for a government position came first from China. Confucius gave test to determine if persons had the skills to perform the job they were being considered for. Meritocracy is an idea we uphold and is a practice in our own government today. But Confucius went beyond testing for the intellectual capacities he gave test to see if the person had the spiritual qualities needed for the job. Were they honest? Were they faithful? Were they humble? Were they greedy? And so on. This test if applied to Congress might empty the halls.
Classical education while not explicitly taught but implicitly taught says white or European matters more? It furthermore tries to create loyalty to the cause of whiteness. Of course this approach assumes that a certain people have most if not all the answers. This is not meritocracy but xenophobic. It is not that I do not think that the Western classics should not be taught but the classics should not be limited to the Western culture but include other culture’s classics too. This makes for a more universal dialogue. It creates space to learn from and respect of other cultures. In today’s world we need to be creating world citizens as well as citizens of the Western world.
When I was in seminary I was taught there were four different ways to study world religions. One was to study with the assumption all world religions were less than and Christianity was the one true religion. The second was to look at all the world religions having some if only primitive truth but building up to the pinnacle of all religion: Christianity. The third was to learn from the world religions and see how it informed your Christianity and how Christianity could connect and speak to the people of these religions. The last was to approach each religion without a pre-ordained hierarchy and experience each as a valid way to look at the world. I am convinced that you cannot know a religion or anything else without an open mind and heart to what is being taught. This last view was considered heretical of course. Yet in a world that grows smaller each day it is probably the approach we need for survival unless of course we intend to rule the world with our one way.