The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading. (Lamentations 2:14, NIV)
Some years ago we were all informed (or misled depending on your view) about the importance and significance of the effects of global warming in our world. Led by former Vice President Al Gore, the work of the documentary centered on providing obvious and direct evidence to the fight against global climate change and its effect on our way of life. The title “Inconvenient Truth”, reflected in part the obvious nature of the change in climate and our full willingness to ignore the signs and implications the movies brought to the forefront. The reaction to the movie further substantiated the title of the movie.
The reality is that this title is very much an existential statement as much as it is a catchy title. The life shaping and life defining moments in our lives are often outlined through ‘inconvenient truths.’ These are the kinds of truths that we know instinctively yet do not enact because it cost too much to our personhood to change. Inconvenient truths disturb us and tell us that everything is not okay and the reality we painted for ourselves is frankly…….false. They are experienced in relationships when we’ve already known for sometime that a relationship is not good for us and yet we remain forconvenience and safety instead of doing what we know to be healthy and fruitful. They are experienced in daily economic decisions when we knowingly make decisions that cost us more in the long-term (and the short-term) just to satisfy an immediate desire. Inconvenient truths are present in all our lives and nag at our very being while we do everything we can to ignore it and get rid of it. That is why it is inconvenient.
In the past few weeks, we as nation exposed two very basic inconvenient truths. These truths have been with this country for a very long time and yet we have done what all people and nations do when faced with inconvenient truths….hide from them. The reality of war is the first truth; not just war but all that goes along with it. Specifically, that war is more than ugly it is horrific and its effects last for generations. This first ignored truth is personified through the life of Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales and the shooting of 16 civilians (if unfamiliar, see here). Regardless of your view of the soldier and national policies of defense, the inconvenient truth sheds light on something that has always existed and that we have attempted to redefine. General W. Tecumseh Sherman once said “War is Hell”, and how right he was. General Sherman’s sentiment was as much true in the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War as it is true in our present day. The reality of this hell is not altered by the use of drone airstrikes, precision guided bombs and surgical strike teams. The images and memories of war live as much with the soldiers and “enemies” alike. Lives are taken and psyches altered permanently. We can ignore it and convince ourselves of alternate stories, but truth’s inconvenience will always rear its head, usually at the most inconvenient moment.
The second inconvenient truth deals with the failings of our “more perfect union”: we exist as a divided society. This division is along three simple lines: sexuality(to include gender), class and race. Any one of these in any society is divisive and causes a great deal of tension. In the US, all three of these are of great consternation and problematic for the one who exists in any (or all) of these categories in opposition to defined ‘norms’. The sad part is that most Americans have convinced themselves that we do not have a race or class problem, and that women, gay, lesbian and transgender persons can all co-exists in harmony. In the face of the hallucinogen of American Exceptionalism, there are moments of inconvenience that show that all is not well in Oz.
The violence toward gay, lesbian and transgender persons all belie our challenges with equality of sexual identity. The political climate of constantly legislating women’s reproductive health as well as the basic disparity of pay for women reveal the failure of male dominated systems (of thinking and of industry) to recognize the power men enjoy. The killing of Trayvon Martin is another instance in the long horrific history of racial prejudice and fear in the United States. The last event in particular is egregious and outrageous. Read the following account by ABC NEWS:
“Martin, a black high-school junior, was making his way home with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea on Feb. 26 when George Zimmerman spotted him, called a non-emergency dispatch number to report Martin looked intoxicated, followed him, and then minutes later after an altercation, shot him.
Zimmerman, 28, who is white, claimed self defense.
The night of Feb. 26, Zimmerman made a non-emergency call to police before fatally shooting Martin, in which he told a dispatcher, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something.”
This teenager, (a high-schooler) is murdered because of fear and gross prejudice. Mr. Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty, but that is only if he is ever placed in the criminal justice system. To date he has not been investigated for murder. Self-defense killings (not that this was) is still a murder. Lives are taken and psyches altered…….permanently. Trayvon Martin is not the first to die and his family is not the first to grieve because of the reality of racism in a country that continually redefines reality. I am also afraid that he will not be the last.
We wonder why many in our society are so quick to “play the race card”……Because it is reality. This is not a game, it is an inconvenient truth. The fact that we are so quick to do nation building, KONY 2012 and all of the other novelties point to level of inconvenience that race generates in our country. Even if we conveniently elect an African-American President. The failure of anyone in law enforcement to conduct a proper homicide investigation and seek justice for all parties belies the level to which race is so much a guiding factor in our social mores and normative behaviors. Yet, we believe that if we continue the mantra of equality then speaking will make it so. Hardly….
As Jeremiah does in the passage from Lamentations, inconvenient truths unabashedly show the reality of the world. Jeremiah speaks after the fall of Jerusalem reminding them of the failure of convenience in conveying the truth of their situation. As a prophet, his message of destruction was consistent and in opposition to all the other prophets who spoke words of comfort and hope- a convenient portrayal that denied the truth of their situation. How things have changed…… not so much?!
Ultimately though, Jeremiah’s message and admonition discloses an even greater reality- inconvenient truths are Divine. They are messages and moments given by the Divine to the created. They are the Divine in us calling us to be the image of God in creation, bringing us to account. They are the moments that call us to be greater than our choices. These moments are the God-moments that speak to our souls and offer us a different way. Thank God for Inconvenient Truths
The sin is that so often we think it too hard to live into that Divine reality. Yet, if we believe the God who so often interrupts, then surely this same God’s reality (no matter when and how it comes) is attainable, if only in part. After all, visions of truth are so often inconvenient to their visionaries…….