Toward the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus is arrested and brought before Pilate. Trying to understand the situation, Pilate asks Jesus about His identity and purpose. Jesus answers in John 18:37 that He came into the world to bear witness to the truth and that “everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice”.
Pilate responds, “What is truth”? Two-thousand years later, much of the world sounds a lot like Pilate. We have entered into the era of “fake news” and conspiracy theories. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, claimed “truth isn’t truth.” Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s advisors, presented the public with what she termed “alternative facts.”
Fake news is nothing new. Cleopatra spread a rumor she had committed suicide. A distraught Mark Antony hearing this, did the same and died in Cleopatra’s arms in 31 B.C.
In our internet age, fake news has spread like a disease; swinging elections, fermenting social unrest, undermining institutions and diverting political capital away from health, education and good government. So, how do we set our moral compass?
Preaching truth is needed now as much as it was in the time of ancient biblical prophets. They dealt with many of the same political, social, economic and religious challenges that people face today. Their culture was chaotic, war torn, poverty stricken, empire building and power seeking with unchecked greed and violence. Sound familiar?
In an article in the Atlantic, Uri Friedman reports that 30% of Americans trust their government “to do what is right.” 42% trust the media. In my parent’s time it was greater than 90%, especially news by Walter Cronkite, “ the most trusted man in America.” Friedman reports the marketing firm, Edelman, has never recorded such a steep drop in trust in the US. They report that America is home to the least-trusting informed public of the 28 countries surveyed, right below South Africa.
Now we are in a pandemic. What is the truth? Who do you trust? I wrote a while back about serving as chaplain in the COVID unit at Montrose Memorial Hospital. I had the privilege of working next to the most amazing people who volunteered with me to be assigned to these patients. Ask these ladies and gentlemen if “ this is just the flu?” or if it’s really “not so bad” or if “it was blown up in scale as a way to make money on vaccines.” I can tell you, watching one of our physicians cry at a bedside because there was nothing more he could do for a patient or one of our nurses declining to go eat, because he would have to dispose of his PPE and there may not be enough PPE to go around humbled me to the core. To watch families have to say goodbye to their sick loved one on an iPad broke my heart.
These heroes gutted through long days in very hot clothing with some anxiety of what might be coming tomorrow, or tonight. There was nothing fake about the love and dedication from many facets I witnessed. Trust me, if the CIA, NSA or any other three letter entity really wanted to know my blood pressure or triglycerides — (100/60, 80), they likely already do.
When all else fails in life, I have to trust in God’s plan. I know these times are hard. I see signs of it everyday in my practice and in my community. Psalm 9:9-10 “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed; a stronghold in times of trouble” might need to be our prayer for a while. That is the direction I will be setting my compass.
Take care of you. Be safe. Tell folks you love them one extra time — you know — just in case. Love to all.
Mary Vader is number 7 of 11 children raised on a Gunnison ranch. She is a pediatrician and active at St Mary Parish. Mary is part of a surgical team that has done medical missions all over the world for 26 years.