Anderson Cooper was flummoxed as he sat in the middle of the fact food-fight he organized for the evening of the worldwide women’s march. The scheduled fight was happening. But he seemed upset that it was a fight between facts and assertions contrary to the facts (or as Kellyanne Conway later named them: “alternative facts“), otherwise known as lies.
For some reason, Donald Trump could not control the itch under his thin skin when he got to CIA headquarters to make amends. He patted his own back for his election victory; then he misrepresented the size of his inauguration day crowd — he said 1.5 million people showed up, which is not true. What made it worse is that he was exposing his inner dialogue while standing on one of the holy sites of American civil religion, the CIA wall of sacrifice. People noticed his lack of genuflection and said so. So he went even further. Donald Trump told his newly-minted press secretary to get to the podium and keep talking about the size of the crowd. Sean Spicer said that Mr. Trump had drawn “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” which is not true, as were several other assertions he made.
Any casual observer (like me) could tell that the crowd was smaller than past inaugurations. A NY Times reporter tweeted a comparison shot with one of Obama’s to prove it.
What flummoxed Anderson and what interests me is the reply to all this hubbub by the Trump-supporter on his panel. She waved to the imaginary crowd of regular Americans behind the camera and said, “They believe Sean Spicer, not you.”
Anderson said, “But the facts are the facts.”
She said, contemptuously, “Nobody cares.”
Does nobody really care about the truth?
Nobody cares! I think she is mostly right — even when it comes to my circle. For instance, we had a procedural tempest in a teapot last week among our church’s leaders, and I have to admit, as far as the general population of our church, it is very likely that nobody would care if we followed our agreements or not. Does anybody care?
It is an era when truth is what you care about. If you want to call climate change a hoax, fine. You want to have alternate definitions of words, fine. If you want to say you had 1.5 million people at your inauguration, fine, as long as you are willing to fight to the death about it. And who is eager to fight with the latest narcissist about their latest lie?
My mind immediately went to John 8, one of the least-appreciated chapters in the gospels, in my opinion — but read it for yourself, of course. There Jesus calls his opponents fellow-travelers with the devil because they believe the devil’s lies. He told them, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”
The Lord’s whole argument with these opponents (who will, eventually, get him killed, as he implied) is based on the fact that they can’t hear him because they don’t know God. He is just revealing God to them. But they believe the lies instead. It is like He is speaking a foreign language when he tells them the truth.
Are we committed to a democracy of lies?
These days, such an argument is even harder to have with Jesus’ opponents, since their philosophy of truth basically says that their assertions are equal with anyone else’s, and it is the majority (or those in power) who legalize what truth is. What the Bible says, is just another truth. What the woman on Anderson’s panel might say, if Anderson told her about Jesus, is, “Nobody cares.” And that would count as a televisable argument.
I admit that President Trump’s lying already bores me to tears. I am having trouble caring. I loved the pink-eared women getting out all over the world to say, “No” to his character and to the threat of his potential actions. But I have a feeling that in a few weeks they will also lose steam in the face of the chief liar and his cabal of billionaires and be tempted to watch fantasy people fight the power on Netflix. I hope I am wrong. Whether they fight the power or not, I hope our collective boredom has some of the same resignation as Jesus. He told the powers, “If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.” Trump is just more of the same, only worse.
When Elizabeth Warren, the anti-Trump, got up to speak at the gigantic Boston protest, Saturday, she recited her latest version of the eleven commandments of progressivism. Most of them make sense to me, politically and even morally, but it was not like she was speaking from God. I was excited, but that will pass. My spirit was not moved by the Spirit, and that is what I long for. I was not moved to save democracy with her, yet another millionaire supposedly fighting for the downtrodden.
But I woke up today moved to listen to Jesus again and see what he really wants us to do in the middle of a world that is even more attuned to the devil’s lies than usual. I hope I am bored because I just don’t want to learn the native language of the elite. Come to think of it, Elizabeth Warren reminds me of my ninth-grade French teacher. I didn’t learn French, either.