Especially as we draw close to our quadrennial presidential election, we are inundated with authoritative voices telling us for whom to vote and why.
It is often very difficult to find the kernel of truth hidden among the torrent of rhetoric in the various ads, printed materials, speeches, phone calls and even the conversations between friends whose political persuasions differ.
And, unfortunately, frequently the kernel of truth is so distorted by the time it is discerned that it is hard to know what to think.
The same thing can often happen in our churches and our religious world. A voice of authority tells us what they presumably believe is the truth about God’s Word or a particular way of practicing our faith.
Those who do so are generally very sincere and concerned. I have never understood how the same Holy Spirit who lives in me and lives in others can lead us in different directions as we prayerfully, carefully seek to follow the straight and narrow path.
As in politics, we all tend to feel that our point of view is the correct one, and if others would just listen to our reasoning, they would see the light of day.
We consider our arguments and rationale to be cogent and worth passing along to others who need to be persuaded.
A recent incident with one of our daughters sheds an interesting light on this subject.
She is knowledgeable in outdoor education and has a long history of working with children.
She was visiting not too long ago, and we drove into our driveway on a beautiful late evening. We live in a predominately rural area of northeast Georgia so there are not many lights to distract from the magnificence of the starlit night.
As we looked up at the sky that night, it looked as if we could reach up and almost touch the stars.
I remarked that I always have difficulty finding the Big Dipper. Our daughter pointed up and said, “See those three stars in a row…that’s the Big Dipper.”
My response was strong and positive: “No, that’s Orion. It’s the only constellation I can always identify!”
My daughter agreed, but said that Orion was part of the Big Dipper.
“No, I don’t think so,” was my response.
Now you have to realize that I have been mothering this daughter for close to 50 years, so I expected her to accept that I was correct.
She, however, had a different idea. She pulled out her smart phone, which has an “app” that you can point to the sky and be told exactly what you are seeing.
With a great deal of chagrin, she looked at me and said, “You are right.”
Then, with even more chagrin, she said, “I have told children all over the world that the belt of Orion was a part of the Big Dipper.”
Now the point of relating that incident is that on every occasion that my daughter had given this erroneous information to receptive children, she was in a position of authority, teaching the children what she believed was both truthful and interesting to them.
And she has done this literally all over the world, here in the states, in Russia, in Asia, in Turkey.
Misinformation. With a kernel of truth (she did say it was Orion). Spoken by a person whose authority was unquestioned.
Those misinformed children will probably learn at some point that they were given incorrect information and perhaps will learn to weigh what they hear with discernment. Most of them were too young to be expected to challenge what they were taught.
We, in this particular, very partisan political atmosphere, have no excuse for not at least trying to sort the truth from the rhetoric. It should also go without saying that in our spiritual lives we have the responsibility to seek the Truth.
Sara Powell is on the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics, a freelance writer and former moderator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. She and her husband, Bill, live in Hartwell, Ga. Visit her website at LiftYourHeart.com.