I recently took a break from social media for a couple of weeks. I missed a couple of events in the lives of people I care about. I did not miss the relentless torrent of facts that are mindlessly spread around in service to one faction or another. What I truly do not understand is the number of people that still believe that we can change each other’s minds by the sharing of facts. This is hard enough to do when we like the one sharing. It is nearly impossible when the facts are shared in an arrogant, sarcastic, and superior attitude.
Among my “favorites” are those that share “direct quotes” from politicians or other leaders. Out of context and without being framed by the rest of the speech, these quotes rarely make sense. They are often grammatical and logical minefields. I know that I would not like to have my worst public speaking examples published to make a point by someone who sought my defeat or demise.
I have come to believe that those who are most interested in facts are the least interested in truth. It is my experience that those who express, “Just give me the facts,” have made up their minds about truth and will cram that truth into whatever shape is necessary to fit the facts gathered. It is a well-known tactic to obscure truth with facts. It happens in business, politics, and religion. It happens in families. It happens when one is more interested in law than in justice. It happens when the truth is too hard, and the facts become a shield to keep us from having to face and wrestle with the truth.
I have learned that I can live without facts, I do it every day. What I cannot fathom is living without truth. Not my own made-up truth, but truth that originates and exists without me. It was there before I arrived on this planet, and it will be there when I leave. Truth that demands something of me. Truth that refuses to be bent and twisted by facts and law. Truth that exists and works whether I notice it or care that it exists.
This is not a comfort. Truth refuses to affirm that which is false. Truth that does not expose, embarrass, enrage, or encourage us is not likely worth following. I have come to believe that it cannot be possessed as we understand it. I will never be able to say, “I have the truth.” I might be able to say that I have found it, but it will always be just beyond me, pulling me toward it. I might be able to point someone else to it and we might journey together toward it. It is not ours to do with what we will. It can, however, be sought and lived and seen.
The word “fact” does not show up in the Bible very often. Here is one of those places, “And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?’ ” (Mark 8:17-18) Much could be said about this, but for now let’s just see that while they were focused on the facts, they were missing what was happening as they were following Jesus. They were blinded by the fact that they had no bread and their focus from the important was lost.
Scripture is not a book of facts — much as we would sometimes like for it to be. It is a book of truth. Seeking facts there to confirm whatever truth we think we may possess will place us in danger of missing the important messages there.
We might even be tempted to use this book of truth to support facts that diminish the faith of others. We might even claim this book of truth as our own and use it to bludgeon those who disagree with us socially or politically. If it is true, and if it originates with truth beyond us, we do not need to engage in such with hateful attitudes.
Don’t misunderstand. The truth is worth arguing about and for. It is worth trying to convince others that we are moving toward it. It is not, however, ours to claim as our own. And it certainly is not meant to be called into the service of our selected facts.