From the Third Letter of John:
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely, how you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – 3 John 2-4 (NRSV) – April 20, 2013.)
The first verse of this bit from John’s Third Letter brings to mind an old hymn, the first verse of which is
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
In today’s world, it seems, the sea does not so much roll with sorrows, although there are plenty of those, as with speculations and rumors. There is a difference between “the news” and “the truth.”
For the past five days, since the bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon, the news media and social media have been awash in a sea of speculation into which have splashed the occasional fact and, more often, gross inaccuracies. It has all been “news,” but it has not often been the truth.
In the world of 24-hour news cycle anything and everything gets reported. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show eviscerated John King of CNN for his very early and very incorrect report that a suspect had been identified, found, and arrested. The report was apparently based on a misinterpretation of a tweet from a single law-enforcement officer. Such things used to be called “rumors” and checked out – now they are treated as sensational “breaking news” until disproved, and then the “news” becomes an excuse-laden analysis of “why we got it wrong” although it is never put quite so bluntly. It’s always someone else’s fault . . . . It’s all been “news,” but it has not often been the truth.
We have sacrificed truth on the altar of sensation; we have drowned it in the sea of speculation.
This morning we know who the perpetrators of Monday’s horror were. One of them is dead; one of them is in custody. Will we get to the truth of the matter? Will we ever know why this thing was done? I doubt it. We will learn some facts, perhaps, but the sea of speculation is deep and the truth may never surface.
In this environment, how does one read John and his praise for truth? How does one read Jesus’ claim to be “the Truth”? If one truly “walks in the truth,” if one is a follower of “the Truth,” I think it means viewing every report with suspicion; it means withholding judgment until “facts” are verified and more is known. It means being both skeptical and charitable. View the “news” in such a way and you may find the truth, and it will be well with your soul.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.
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