Last month, the campaign for the presidential election began in earnest. We only have one year and seven months to go! A meme that has emerged is that candidates have to “play to their base.” I don’t mind saying that I really hate that phrase. Playing to one’s base seems to mean presenting oneself in a less than honest way. It seems to mean, perhaps even more so than after the conventions, pandering to the lowest common denominator in one’s political party. It means finessing (or stretching) the truth. And the pundits seem to be okay with, and even expect, that kind of behavior.
Last night, part of the Episcopal psalm reading was 119:43. It begins, “Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth.” The Revised English Bible renders it in a way that seems even starker: “Do not rob me of my power to speak the truth.”
When we become used to stretching the truth—ignoring the truth—we can reach a point in which it seems comfortable, even natural. At a deeper level, however, the lies that do the most damage are the ones we tell ourselves. That can be expressed in many ways.
Are there life-denying habits we continue, even to the point of becoming addictions? Is there a little voice inside that begs and pleads with us to listen? Are there abilities that we falsely rule out? Are there ways in which we refuse to leave our comfort zone?
Today’s epistle reading in the Revised Common Lectionary (and the Episcopal) is 1 John 5:13-20. Interestingly enough, verse 21 is only considered to be an alternative ending. I believe that verse is one of the New Testament’s best warnings. It challenges us to be aware of those little lies we tell ourselves. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Idols are the false, the counterfeit, the pretend. They are what rob us of the power to speak the truth.