fear, lies, and truth

i intended to write a post about the myths we believe. however, i realized that myth was the wrong word. myths can be good and essential components of our lives and cultures. a myth doesn’t have to be literal or factual in order to be true. in fact, the conflation of truth and factuality is a product of the enlightenment, and not a helpful one.

so, instead of writing about myths, i want to write about lies. it seems that, too often, we fall hook, line, and sinker for things that just aren’t true, and then we end up creating entire meaning-giving narratives around these lies.

there’s reality. there’s truth. and then there’s a steaming pile of lies. usually we blame the media, and they surely play a role. but, the reason the media can spin and twist information so easily is that they are just giving us what we want. we want what they are selling because we are afraid. fear drives our economy, our relationships, and our approach to the “other.”

here are a few of the lies we’ve been sold (this list is incomplete, and definitely not comprehensive) :

  • america is the moral superior of the world, and god likes us best. how could this not be true? after all, look at our prosperity and success. yet much of the groundwork for all this was laid by atrocities committed against native and african americans. and many americans today have a hard time even admitting how morally repugnant these events in our past are. and before you say “the past is the past,” let me suggest another cliche: “those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” and based on what i’ve seen people saying online recently about refugees, we aren’t that far from it.
  • all muslims are bad, but all christians are good. the reality is that there are really wonderful people in all religious traditions, and there are also people who use religion as a mask for all the worst human actions and intentions. do i agree with everything muslims believe? of course not. do i agree with everything all christians believe? of course not. we must learn to be more nuanced in our thinking. instead of evaluating people based on a label they wear, perhaps we could, instead, make discernments based on the content of their character. we should be known, jesus insists, by our fruit, by what is produced in our lives that is really just an overflow of who we really are.
  • you can’t be a deeply committed christian and have open, constructive, compassionate dialogue with people who aren’t. this is just not true. the truth is that we can be deeply committed to the christian tradition, or better, to jesus, and still be open to learning from and sharing with people from other traditions. in fact, i have found my own faith enhanced, not diminished by such occurrences. (brian mclaren has written an important book on this called, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road, and i highly recommend it.)
  • with all the problems we have in america (homeless veterans, for example) we have no business helping syrians or any other group. it’s absolutely unacceptable that our country would send men and women to risk their lives in war, and then not provide for them when they return. i agree, that is just wrong. however, we have bought into a system of thinking that is either/or based. we either help our vets, or we help refugees. this kind of thinking is limited, and it is not an honest assessment of any situation. rarely do we actually find ourselves in either/or circumstances. a more holistic approach is called both/and thinking. we can help both our vets (and anyone else in our country who needs it) and those who are fleeing violence. we would desperately hope others would make space for us, if the situations were reversed. deep down we know this, but fear is speaking louder than reality right now.

the truth is that we can be deeply christian, gratefully american, and concerned about the pain and suffering of every human being in the world. and we must acknowledge that we can’t solve or fix everything, but we must try to do what we can. we must reject the lies that fear wants us to believe, and embrace the truth that sets us free.

can you think of any other lies that we believe?
feel free to share in the comments. 

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