Today, 8000 experts from the Zoological Society of London and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature released a list of the one hundred most endangered species on the planet. It includes everything from a pygmy three-toed sloth on one island in Panama to the willow blister, a fungi found only in Wales.
The discussion about the preservation of these species revolves around perspectives about their relative value to human beings. The director of the group that issued the report said “We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: do these species have a right to exist or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”
With all due respect to those who work to save the natural beauties of our planet, there is another moral and ethical decision that is most pressing for our culture. What we are rapidly driving to extinction is not a monkey or a bird or a beetle. No, we are witnessing the gradual disappearance of a simple and most basic virtue of a free society:
Truth is a verified or indisputable fact or that which most evidently points to and conforms to reality. We often hear it referred to as “the simple truth”.
Too many places play fast and loose with truth. For instance,
+ baseball player Melky Cabrera was leading the National League in hitting when he was suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. On top of that, he created a false web page to refute the charges. Victor Conte of BALCO, a known supplier of drugs to sports figures said that beating the test is “like taking candy from a baby.”
+ Harvard University, the bastion and standard of of academic prowess in the United States is dealing with a massive cheating scandal. Over 100 students are accused of collaborating on or plagiarizing answers on a take-home, open-note exam, in clear violation of the University’s honor code. Ironically, the course was “Introduction to Congress”.
+ A member of that same Congress (Al Franken), wrote a satirical book on politics called “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them”. It raised the level of respect that 8th graders everywhere have for their elected officials. Not.
+ Numerous teachers and administrators have been found guilty of manipulating standardized test scores to make schools look like they were making significant progress. Last year, six high school seniors were found to have paid someone up to $2500 to take the SAT college entrance exam for them
+ The Ashley Madison web site is specifically designed to assist married persons to make the connections to cheat on their spouses.
+ “Reality” television is often not; it is merely orchestrated outrageousness.
+ A Supreme Court decision has made it protected form of free speech for any person to falsely claim orally, or in writing, “to have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States.” The decision effectively negated the Stolen Valor Act of 2006.
+ And don’t even get me started on the entire political process of this election cycle. There is no genuine, substantive dialogue about the critical issues facing our nation –economic, diplomatic, civic, moral or social. From all sides— Republican, Democrat, and Independent—there is an endless succession of assertions (often of dubious fact), followed by spin, talking points and constant media manipulation.
But here’s the thing: political dialogue requires simple truth. So does real education. And fair athletic competition. And lasting marriages. And genuine honor. And artistic expression. And a political process that results in a government marked by integrity and effective leadership that serves its citizens and helps the nation deal with challenges.
Why do we struggle with truth-telling? We could list lots of reasons: rationalization, pressure to succeed, avoidance of discomfort or to get around a barrier to desire, hunger for power, protection of reputation or cultivation of image, etc.
Bottom line: as a people, we have, for the most part, lost a common standard by which we measure truth. Truth requires an external standard, like a tape measure gives us an accurate measure of feet and inches in a space.
What then, is our measure?
Is there a perfect, external moral and ethical standard that can be applied across the board, to all people in all situations?
Our standard of truth arises from the God who created everything and to whom all persons, governments, situations and institutions are accountable. “Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him, “You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.” (Rom. 3:4)
Our standard of truth is revealed in the Word of God which is rational, understandable, totally true & trustworthy in all it affirms. ‘Lord…your word is truth….The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Jn. 17:17, Ps. 119:160)
Our standard of truth is measured by a Person —Jesus, the Son of God—and His gospel. “Jesus said…I am the truth….if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 14:6, 8:31-32)
So we simply ask three questions of any moment we speak, decide or consider:
1) Does this match the character of Almighty God and express submission to Him?
2) Does this square with the written word of God?
3) Is this consistent with God’s ways revealed in the life, ministry and gospel of Jesus?
The conservation of truth must start somewhere, with someone.
You do it.