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Day 30—Tuesday, March 19

James 3:8-19

…but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, made in the likeness of God.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” - Jesus, in John 14:6

"Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Judge of Truth.” - a Jewish blessing

“The end of a lie is always darkness.” - from The Little Liar, a novel by Mitch Albom

Perhaps our deeply divided country has never gotten over the turmoil of the 1960s, when the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, assassinations, and other societal changes led to unrest that drove a wedge right down the middle of our American culture. The wounds and scars from that era still linger, and the battle lines are more entrenched than ever. Or perhaps our division goes back even further, to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, or to the Civil War, or even to our founding as a nation. Fundamental differences were evident, even then.

However, there is something else going on, this time around - more insidious than basic cultural differences, more threatening to our way of life. It is the abandonment and manipulation of truth, the acceptance and endorsement of lies. We’ve always had liars and cheats, make no mistake. But facts always meant something. We disagreed about them, debated them, and even fought over them - yet somehow, we were able to move forward, even during our most contentious times, to gradually make a more perfect union.

But those days now seem to be long gone. Ours is the age of misinformation (getting the facts wrong) and disinformation (false information intended to deceive); of fake news and “alternative facts,”; gaslighting and conspiracy theories; QAnon and “Jews will not replace us!”; censorship, book banning, and whitewashing history; fear mongering, hate speech, and demonization of those with whom we disagree. Our foreign enemies exploit all of this, dividing us against ourselves. So do many of our politicians and news sources, for political gain or particular agendas. Shockingly, even American Christianity is divided over this. Social media is too often the breeding ground for lies, and already we are seeing the use of AI “deep fakes.” So, it is no surprise that we can’t even agree about what the truth is, or what the facts are. James tells us that the tongue can be “a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” which seems to say a lot about where we are.

There is real fear that America is hopelessly careening toward disaster because of this, and there certainly are no easy answers to get us back on track. But it’s clear that we need to rid ourselves of that poison. A good start would be for each of us to reclaim, embrace, and demand the truth, no longer tolerating the lies and deceptions that divide us. If Jesus is the truth, and if God is the Judge of Truth, we know it is the crucial foundation upon which Americans, even in disagreement, can come back together. After all, “the truth will set you free.”

There’s a character in James McBride’s National Book Award-winning novel, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store (highly recommended, and we have it in the church library) who says that the truth “is how I try to live. It’s how all God-fearing people should live.” Maybe that bit of simple wisdom is the only answer we need.

-Eric Lawson



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