The Exact Truth Should Be the Law of Speech

       Sensationalism. Scandal-mongering. Name calling. "News." ––It seems that yellow journalism is back with a vengeance. 

       Maybe we can blame the 24-hour news cycle that fills the airwaves with, uh, something . . . even when it has nothing to say. 

       Maybe we can blame the rise of video for making us all more interested in a 45-second clip of anything even when it has nothing to do with something. 

       Maybe we can blame an increasingly polarized political situation in which the other guy is wrong because, well, he's WRONG, okay? He just is. Never has a politician been so anti-American and backwards as this guy! Only fools and monsters would vote for him!––thus distorting our sense of proportion and demonstrating our inability to follow well-reasoned arguments to reasonable conclusions. 

       This is bad for our political climate, bad for our policy-making, bad for our neighborliness, bad for our critical thinking, bad bad bad

       It's bad in the world, but it's far worse when it's in the church. Sermons and blogs and "news" stories in which we underhandedly denigrate believers who believe differently than we do, in which we defame by exaggeration or misrepresentation, in which we thinly veil our slander under the guise of journalism or righteous reformation: 

this is the body of Christ eating itself, one bloody bite at a time. 

The Father, Son, and Spirit weep at the sight of these things.

Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times,  "You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord." But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  
Let your word be "Yes, Yes," or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [matthew 5:33-37, nrsv]

Jesus told us to "swear not at all." For those of us not really in the habit of making oaths and swearing by things, what's the message for us? >> The exact truth should be the law of speech

       In a world of multiplying divisions and deepening divides, where words are wielded to wound and the "other" is an enemy, this message of Jesus is an eminently relevant one: SPEAK ONLY THE TRUTH. When you speak of your brother, speak only the truth. When you represent the beliefs of your sister, speak only the truth. When you disagree with that preacher publicly, speak only the truth. When you need to criticize an author, speak only the truth. The exact truth should be the law of speech.

"Jesus proceeded to lay down a principle that would make oath taking needless. He teaches that the exact truth should be the law of speech. 'Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one.' . . . . 
         "If these words of Christ were heeded, they would check the utterance of evil surmising and unkind criticism; for in commenting upon the actions and motives of another, who can be certain of speaking the exact truth? How often pride, passion, personal resentment, color the impression given! A glance, a word, even an intonation of the voice, may be vital with falsehood. Even facts may be so stated as to convey a false impression. And 'whatsoever is more than' truth, 'is of the evil one.'
         "Everything that Christians do should be as transparent as the sunlight. Truth is of God; deception, in every one of its myriad forms, is of Satan; and whoever in any way departs from the straight line of truth is betraying himself into the power of the wicked one. Yet it is not a light or an easy thing to speak the exact truth. We cannot speak the truth unless we know the truth; and how often preconceived opinions, mental bias, imperfect knowledge, errors of judgment, prevent a right understanding of matters with which we have to do! We cannot speak the truth unless our minds are continually guided by Him who is truth.
        "Through the apostle Paul, Christ bids us, 'Let your speech be alway with grace.' 'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.' (Colossians 4:6, Ephesians 4:29)"

(Ellen White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 67-68.)

Christian, as you speak, tweet, post, or share, remember: 
the exact truth + alway with grace.

a modern terror of ancient suffering

>> a poem by Ernesto Cardenal, an interpretation of the biblical Psalm 22, of David, from Cardenal's "Salmos de este momento en el mundo" (click here to hear this piece read). An English translation follows.

SALMO 21 (22)

Dios mío Dios mío ¿por qué me has abandonado? 
Soy una caricatura de hombre
el desprecio del pueblo 
Se burlan de mí en todos los periódicos
Me rodean los tanques blindados 
estoy apuntado por las ametralladoras 
y cercado de alambradas
las alambradas electrizadas
Todo el día me pasan lista 
Me tatuaron un número
Me han fotografiado entre las alambradas
y se pueden contar como en una radiografía todos mis huesos
Me han quitado toda identificación
Me han llevado desnudo a la cámara de gas 
y se repartieron mis ropas y mis zapatos 
Grito pidiendo morfina y nadie me oye
grito con la camisa de fuerza
grito toda la noche en el asilo de enfermos mentales 
en la sala de enfermos incurables
en el ala de enfermos contagiosos 
en el asilo de ancianos
agonizo bañado de sudor en la clínica del psiquiatra 
me ahogo en la cámara de oxígeno
lloro en la estación de policía
en el patio del presidio 
en la cámara de torturas
en el orfelinato
estoy contaminado de radioactividad
y nadie se me acerca para no contagiarse
Pero yo podré hablar de ti a mis hermanos 
Te ensalzaré en la reunión de nuestro pueblo 
Resonarán mis himnos en medio de un gran pueblo 
Los pobres tendrán un banquete
Nuestro pueblo celebrará una gran fiesta 
El pueblo nuevo que va a nacer.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

PSALM 21 (22) 

My God my God, why have you abandoned me?
I am a caricature of a person
despised by the people
They sneer at me in all the newspapers
Tanks surround me
machine guns take aim at me
barbed wire, loaded with electricity, imprisons me
Every day I am being called up
I am tattooed with a number
They photographed me behind the gates
and my bones can be counted like on an X-ray
All identification has been removed from me
Naked they pushed me into the gas chamber
and my clothes and shoes they have shared among themselves
I cry for morphine and no one hears me
I cry with the straitjacket
I cry every night in the mental hospital
in the ward for incurable patients
in the quarantine wing
in the asylum of the elderly
I agonize, covered in sweat, in the psychiatric clinic
I suffocate with the oxygen tank
I cry at the police station
in the prison courtyard
in the torture chamber
in the orphanage
I am contaminated with radioactivity
and no one comes near me, for fear of infection
But I will speak of you to my brothers
You I will praise at our public meetings
My hymns will be sung in large crowds
The poor will hold a banquet
Our people -- the people yet to be born -- 
will rejoice in a great feast.


I like this poem mainly for 2 reasons

1. Through its contemporization it gives me deeper insight into the sufferings of David and of Christ; it makes me to feel a modern terror of ancient suffering.

2. It draws a line, thick and intolerable, between the suffering Christ and the oppressed and forgotten of today.

It 100% succeeds as a poem. 

detail of "Golgotha", a painting by Gebre Kristos Desta (1963, Ethiopia) 

Why I Don't Drink Alcohol

Sparkling apple juice for me, please! 

In brief, here are 5 reasons why I'm a very happy teetotaler.

1. The taste. Ewww.

People say that it's an acquired taste, but I don't understand why one would want to acquire it. If you want to acquire the taste of something, try Brussels sprouts or mustard greens.

2. Math

Alcohol has proven itself a capable instrument for destruction. 1 in 9 Americans has a problem controlling their consumption, and 30% of Americans have reported experiencing an alcohol disorder at one point in their lives (1). That is TENS OF MILLIONS of people.

From brain damage to liver disease, it causes over $2.5billion in medical costs each year in this country (25-40% of patients in general hospital beds are there for alcohol-related complications; 2). It results in 2.5 million deaths every year worldwide (3).This year, almost 10000 human beings will be killed in alcohol-related motor vehicles accidents in the US (based on 2011 data, 4). Many people who are afraid of flying or who get sick at the thought of shark attacks still drink alcohol, even though it is, respectively, 860x and 380000x more likely to kill them (but I guess being mangled by a shark isn't as socially acceptable as drinking). Alcohol brings a lot of trouble and I don't want to participate in it.

3. Influence

I'm not the president of anything and you won't find my picture in a celebrity magazine, but like everyone I have influence in the world, influence on the people around me. Even if I am a person who can drink moderately and responsibly, my example could lead others to drink what they shouldn't when they shouldn't. But why should my life be restricted by the weaknesses of others? "

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat [drink], you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died." (Romans 14:15,17) In other words, my Christianity bids me to lay down my rights for the sake of protecting others. 

4. The need for sobriety

People argue about if alcohol is absolutely forbidden by God in the Scriptures, but one thing cannot be argued: God detests drunkenness. (Isaiah 5:11-12, 22; 22:13; 56:12; Hosea 7:14, etc.)

There are a lot of things in the world that can harm us spiritually, making us unfit for the life God designed, and drunkenness is definitely among them. This is why the Scriptures repeatedly exhort believers to be sober. (Romans 12:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8; 1 Peter 1:13, 5:8) And the closer we come to the close of earth's history, the more important sobriety is.

5. Sensibilities of the spirit

One of the most commonly expressed desires among Christian people is to hear from God more often and more clearly. Many times we say it sort of complainingly, as if God is not doing His honest part. But we who utter the complaint are the same ones who dull our spiritual senses with busyness, entertainment, gluttony, and...alcohol. God doesn't speak to us through our shampoo bottles or our glove compartments.

He speaks to us through our minds.

So whatever we do to keep our minds clear and reasoned tends toward spiritual health and a close connection with the speaking God. Conversely, whatever clouds our minds also dulls our spiritual senses and makes it harder for us to hear the voice of God. 

Clear mind, clear life. 

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine...In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?" // proverbs 23:29-35
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you can pray. // 1 peter 4:7 

I was made for this

Were some of us made for the desert and some for the trees? Some for the bluffs and some for the sea? Some for the warmth at the earth's midline? Some for the fragrant covering of pine? Some for the clear waters, some for the ice? Some for the corn fields and some for the rice? Then I --- I was made for this:

Joshua on Eagle Creek Trail, Oregon