The pilot episode of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report gave me one of the biggest a-ha moments I can remember having while watching a television program. In the pilot, Colbert introduced the idea of truthiness in a segment called The Wørd (a parody of a certain someone else’s Talking Points segment) and described it as something that feels right – regardless of whether or not actual facts support it. We see truthiness around us every day.
- It may not be true that the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit was a million-dollar jackpot for an old lady who carelessly spilled her coffee while speeding down the highway. But doesn’t that narrative feel right? It’s truthy.
- It may not be true that President Obama has missed more Arlington Memorial Day ceremonies than any president in recent history (and therefore is anti-American), but it sure feels right. Again, it’s truthy.
- Al Gore never claimed to have invented the Internet, but doesn’t it feel good to mock him for it? We’ve accepted truthiness.
- Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin may have never said, “I can see Russia from my house,” but doesn’t it feel like something she would have said? Truthiness strikes again.
Truthiness is something we in Christ’s body have to guard against like crazy. Faith is a deeply personal thing. It’s fundamentally emotional. It appeals to the heart. Yet Jesus speaks of his words being objectively true. Paul appeals to our rational minds several times in his writings. Think about Galatians 1:6-12, where Paul appeals to his readers to be careful of the doctrine they accept. Think about Jesus speaking about worship in terms of spirit and truth in John 4:19-24. Think of John writing about testing every word from every spirit in I John 4:1-6. As Christians, we have to be concerned with our practices and our beliefs. Do they adhere to the truth of Christ’s word, or have I morphed them into something that feels good to me.
I once saw a quote asserting that worship is a feeling. I’d agree to an extent, but I think this misses the mark in a way that encourages truthiness. Worship is more than a feeling. It’s a way of life. It’s a complete giving of myself over to God and what He wants me to be. This includes worshiping Him within the truth of His word – not relying on what feels right to me but rather doing what God has shown me is right in His word. The same goes for social issues, for issues of morality, of kindness, of charity, and a number of other topics. It may feel right to me to take a “get what you deserve” approach in this life, but that is not the pattern God wants me to follow. He wants me to be forgiving and charitable, even when it doesn’t feel right to my sense of justice.
When we succumb to truthiness in the way we divide scripture, we are putting self before God; just like we put self before facts when we succumb to truthiness in science, in politics, or in any other topic we can grow emotional about. As children of Christ, our concern is with truth, and truth doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes truth is hard, but we have to accept it. We cannot shape truth. We have to let it shape us.