Becoming Less Interested in Truth and More Interested in Reality

Truth is a concept that gets thrown around a lot these days. What is the Truth of this political situation? What is the Truth of that famous person’s claim? What is the Truth of this scientific study? On and on it goes.

Much has been written about Absolute Truth versus relative truths. For the record, I believe that there is Truth and there are truths. But how many times have we gotten lost in the search for Truth or truths that are still “out there” and “illusive,” all the while missing “reality” that is right in front of us and needs to be dealt with?

Science is one area where we debate Truth, truths, and “alternative truths.”

Let’s talk Truth in science a bit, and the concept of “what science says” is Truth. What you hear in school or on the news is not necessarily “what science says” in an exact and specific manner. It is usually a condensed, simplified, and amplified version designed to be easily shareable or to gain viewers/readers/etc.

For example, you hear people say that one week that scientific Truth says coffee is bad for you, and the next week science says coffee is good for you, so that means facts and truth are relative and science is not trust-able… right? However, science never really says “Coffee good unga unga!” or “coffee bad unga unga!” What science says is something like “under these circumstances in reality, those that drink this much coffee are 30% more likely to develop these possibly negative factors” or “under these circumstances in reality, people that drink coffee this many times per day are 52% likely to live 4 years longer than those that don’t.” People in the news and media simplify that to “Scientists say coffee may be good for you!” because, well, we have short attention spans and they have to catch our attention quickly. But that is not what “Science says” – it is what a reporter say about a scientific report. To dismiss science because of this is a bad idea, because you are not dismissing scientific Truth but how some report on science.

Or for another example: people say that they were taught in school that scientific Truth says that Saturn was the only planet in the solar system with rings, but that ended up not being true, so scientific facts and Truth must be relative. However, “science” never said Saturn was the only planet with rings. In 1789, William Herschel reported seeing rings around Uranus and got several details about them correct. No one else saw them again for hundreds of years until the 1970s, but the idea that there could be other planets with rings has been a scientific possibility for hundreds of years. A few decades ago, science textbooks said things like “based on our current reality and abilities to view space, Saturn is the only planet that we currently know of that has rings, but it is possible that others will be discovered.” Your teacher might have shortened that to save time to “Saturn is the only planet with rings,” but that does not mean that is fully what science said in Truth.

So in order to critique science, you have to look at what science actually says and not how it has been summarized by non-scientists. To throw out scientific evidence just because you don’t like it is just reckless at best. I mean, really – scientists spend their whole career studying something, using thousands if not millions of dollars in funding and hundreds of full time hours to come up with their science… and you come along with no experience or funding or employment in the field and spend a few minutes or even a few hours reading about their work and just decide “I don’t buy it” and that means science is wrong or relative or whatever? Ummm…. nope.

But if that is the case, then great. We can reject any facts simply because we don’t like them or they don’t add up in our minds. Awesome! I will now call everyone that believes this “She-ra Princess of Power” because the evidence that your name is Jeff or whatever just doesn’t “seem right” to me. Your birth certificate and decades of experience being called your name is now irrelevant to me, She-ra – sorry. I disagree with your name and that is all that matters.

But, of course, the reality is that you are called Jeff at this moment, so the Truth of your name is irrelevant to me at this moment. I have to focus on your name being Jeff because that is what the reality at this moment is.

So that is why I am growing less interested in talking “Truth” and more interested in talking “reality” in most circumstances where practical solutions are needed. Of course, I would be glad to sit over a meal and chat Truth with those that like those kind of deep talks, but those rarely solve the problems in the world. What we need as a country is to face reality.

For example, the Truth about Trump’s involvement with Russia is that we just don’t know for sure what the Truth is. But the reality is that there is a lot of concerning evidence that many laws were broken, so we need to fully investigate those concerns to find out either way.

The Truth about climate change is that there is much we do not know about what is going on on our planet in general. But the reality is that the numbers and signs are not good and pointing towards imminent global catastrophe. So we could argue the Truth about blips and problems with the Science, or live in the reality that we currently have and do something about it.

Truth is something that is always true and any changes to it will cause massive crises of faith, thus revealing it to have never been “True.” But a reality is something that is real right now, but it may change in the future and still be real.

For instance, the Truth about the DNC rigging the Democratic nomination for Clinton is that we just don’t know if that was really true or possible. The reality is that the evidence for that idea that we currently have was mostly fabricated by WikiLeaks. I can’t say that is a Truth either way right now because something could be released tomorrow either way to prove me a liar. But I can say that the reality right now is that we have no credible evidence that the DNC rigged anything. That reality might change either way in the future, but all we have to act on at this moment is reality.

There are, of course, historical, scientific, and political issues that we do know the Truth about. Or at least parts of it. Time, investigation, and research have provided a solid foundation of Truth. In other cases, it depends on what you are talking about. Do you want to know the final Truth about every aspect of climate change? Can’t give you that. But we can give you a whole ton of concerning current realities. For instance, do you want to know the Truth about whether humans have caused some problematic climate change? We can provide you with that – that part of Truth is also a current reality for the bigger issue of climate change. It’s all inter-related in some ways. A bit fuzzy and hard to pinpoint depending on the angle you take, but clearer and clearer from another angle. Kind of like, well… metamodernism

metamodern-faith-avatarBut so often we are arguing current realities as if they are already settled Truth. Or arguing against current realities because they lack the ability to reach the level of settled Truth (yet). So I prefer to keep the arguments about current realities and leave the discussions of Truth to be with those that can handle that conversation without all the drama.

Actually, What If I Do Understand Trump Supporters – But Still Disagree?

We are now all being told that the biggest problem with with our national discourse on the election is that we don’t listen to each other. On the surface, this is a good point because listening is usually always a good idea. However, it seems that this good idea is being served with an unhealthy side dish of “if you are disagreeing, it is because you are not listening and understanding.”

We tend to accept this side dish because we are taught that our problems would all be solved if we just realized that we are more alike than we are different.

But what if we all start listening to each other right now and find that…. we are all still different on many key issues?

I have lived in Texas all my life. My parents are not very conservative, but probably 90%+ of all people that I have known are. I know and understand the conservative position as much as any conservative does (and sometimes even more so). And because I understand, I disagree. Bigly.

However, I don’t believe that the conservative viewpoint should be silenced or removed from the national discourse on and topic. Many conservatives feel like their viewpoint is not being heard because the liberal media and biased system is keeping it out. To advocate for those feelings to be ignored will just cause them to grow stronger.

But at the same time, I know that there are factual problems with that last paragraph. There is a conservative side of the media that tells their story and technically gets more viewers than the liberal side. The system is a mess that causes many problems with many people, not just conservatives. And even those two sentences are greatly oversimplifying some complex issues.

But the current drift of our national narrative is heading towards an attitude that will label me as not “listening” or “understanding” just because I disagree.

Its not really one way or the other. Sometimes listening leads us to realize we are more alike than we realize – on some issues. Sometimes listening leads us to realize we are really different on some issues and that can’t be changed.

The other side of this problem are those that say that all opinions on all issues are valid, and that we should stop telling anyone that they are wrong. This, of course, is followed by a long list of exceptions to this all inclusive declaration: except for racism, except for sexism, except for religion discrimination, except for heterosexism, except for ableism, etc. This whole package sounds good on the surface, until you dig in and find out that its not that people don’t want you calling out any of these exceptions as much as they want to re-assign everything to different categories so that nothing falls into any negative area. For instance, people will acknowledge that racism exists, but any specific instance of racism is labeled as something else – misunderstanding, social media hype, personal feelings, etc – and therefore moved into the category of “personal opinion” rather than societal problem. Racism exists, its just that there are no racists. Somehow, its magic.

I know people by name that have made racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, etc statements and jokes on social media. So I am not saying they are any of those because they voted for Trump – I knew that they were long before Trump was even considering running. I just didn’t see anyone that had inflammatory statements before the election posting on social media about how they voted for Clinton, Johnson, Stein, or no one after the election.

And so when I also saw people that never posted or said anything prejudiced declaring their support for Trump, you can maybe now see why it confused me. Did you know what you were voting for? Did you care? Why did you not point out that you disagreed with Trump’s sexist, racist, ableist, heterosexist rhetoric until after someone asked you how you could be okay with that? Before the election, I had one cousin that pointed out how much he hated Trump but as a Republican only wanted to vote Republican and felt trapped. I believe him. A few other connections that stated a general discomfort with “some” of Trump’s rhetoric. I believe them as well. These people are unfairly getting labeled many things they shouldn’t be.

I am not a huge fan of blanket statements. I try to avoid them even in the few cases where I suspect they might be true. But I also have listened to many Trump supporters enough to know where a majority of them come from, and I disagree with a majority of their reasoning for voting for Trump (and technically, all votes are for someone – the ballot did not say “against Hillary Clinton” on it). Additional listening on my part will not change my disagreements (even though I will still be listening because that is just who I am).

And for that matter, I don’t think getting Trump supporters to listen to me will get them to change their mind on many stances wither (even though it would be nice to stop being personally accused of killing millions of unborn babies with my own hands because I voted for Clinton).

metamodern-faith-avatarSo this is the challenge we are facing in America. Understanding each other is not going to solve all of our problems. Some, maybe, but not all. It will lead us to realize there are some things we just can’t agree on. We will need to find a way to agree to disagree and then work towards a system where everyone’s rights are protected. This will not be simple or easy. And the incoming administration seems to think there are simple one-solution-fits-all answers for every problem more so than not. I hope we don’t have to go through a large number of national tragedies and hardships for them to realize this is not the case.

There is Something Far More Important Than the Supreme Court at Stake in This Election

This has been some election year. The only reason I haven’t blogged more is that so much changes every day that I can never keep up with it all. One of the constants that I do see continually popping up about this election is that the future of the Supreme Court is the main concern for many voters. All sides of the political spectrum (because there are more than two) feel that the Supreme Court will intensely impact the future of our country.

I don’t disagree that the Supreme Court is very important in every election cycle. But I completely disagree that it is the most important issue in this election.

You only need to look into the eyes of the people around you to see what is the most important thing in this election. And what I am seeing is heart breaking.

I am seeing my own wife growing more and more disillusioned with America in general as an openly sexist woman-hater spouts out hatred and attacks against women while still gaining mass support from millions of people.

I am seeing people of color become more and more depressed over hateful white supremacy becoming the norm as people wish to “make America great again” (which to people of color means oppression, discrimination, and slavery – that was what happen back when “again” is referenced).

I am seeing Muslims growing fearful that next year they might become violently expelled out of this country, or that their family in another country might be mistaken for a terrorist family and bombed out of existence by someone that thinks they deserved it in the first place.

I am seeing people justify sexual assault-filled language as “normal” and “presidential.”

I am seeing a hate-filled man tearing this country apart by speaking his opinion as “truth”…. and people that call themselves “Christians” supporting this with things like (false) prophecies and (fake) words from the Lord.

These people – the ones that are being filled with disillusion, depression, fear, and hatred – they are the future of this country. We will reap what we sow. We will reap what our leaders sow.

Is having your political position represented on the Supreme Court really more important than the emotional well-being of over half the country?

Look, I remember in 1980 when one political side thought the country would fall apart if Reagan was elected and was able to appoint Supreme Court justices. Same thing in 1988 with Bush. Then the other political side thought the country would fall apart if Bill Clinton won in 1992. Then it flipped the other way for Bush in 2000, and the other way for Obama in 2008.

Guess what. The country never falls apart no matter which political side wins the election. The Supreme Court can only rule on issues that come before them, and that is a random collection of issues that is impossible to predict.

But the damage that can happen to the emotional well-being of our country if a guy that is on no one’s side but his own (as he has often stated) can not be under-estimated. We have already seen the rising level of hatred towards women, people of color, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQA community. All of which have been targeted by one party, more specifically their chosen candidate.

So while the Supreme Court may make a decision a few years from now that you don’t agree with, you will daily have to look into the eyes of women, people of color, religious minorities, people with disabilities, or someone from the LGBTQA community and acknowledge that you voted for a person to lead this country that has spoken harsh, hate-filled words about them.

Even if he loses.

Let that sink in a minute: Every. Day.

metamodern-faith-avatarTo me, the heart of the message of Jesus is that we care more about people than politics, more about their well-being than our political positions, more about the least of these than the loudest of these. The Supreme Court is not in the Bible. The people around you are. Make sure that if you consider yourself a Christian or a decent human being, that you get your priorities straight when it comes to the upcoming election. There is something far more important than the Supreme Court at stake in this election: the souls of the people all over this country that have felt the hate-filled wrath of Donald Trump through the actions of his followers. Always remember that words influence actions.

Musings on the Current Presidential Race

If you had asked me four years ago what I thought of the host of The Apprentice becoming a serious U.S. presidential candidate, I would have laughed and said he a racist, misogynist, divisive, unstable megalomaniac that has neither the temperament nor the skills to be taken seriously. Of course, fast forward to now and when one says the same thing, Trump fans accuse you of buying the media lies that the corporations are paying for to slander Trump because he is an outsider. Not sure how the media and corporations would have done that to an opinion of mine that would technically be unchanged for years before he even announced he was running, but whatever. Anyone that knows Trump’s history knows he is neither a Washington outsider nor anti-corporations. He is deeply entangled in both.

Everyone seems to be complaining about media bias. Trump, Sanders, Cruz, Rubio…. Clinton? Has she complained about it yet? I can’t remember. But the funny thing about her is that in the past week I have heard several of her opponents (DEM and GOP) say something about media deception and then follow that with some Clinton issue that they could only know about… from the media. Think about it: email scandal, Benghazi, you name the things dogging her now… the only way we know about these problems is through the media. So the media can accurately report Clinton’s problems, but not the other candidate’s? If the media can’t be trusted, then how do we know any of Clinton’s problems are real? Clinton is currently the only candidate not getting hammered by her opponents for things she said recently or policies she stated since running. That one thing about Sanders standing right behind her 23 years ago is about as bad as it gets… and that is a silly point at best. The attacks on Clinton are all about media-reported issues. That a dangerous place to be. Does anyone know anything about Clinton other than “she’s copying Bernie!!!” and “Benghazi / emails!!!”? That should concern people.

As far as Sanders, the real concern with him is who is voting for him. As in, mostly young rich white males. People of color are voting for Clinton big time. The reaction from the Sanders camp? “They are uninformed! They are buying into media hype!” I have a huge problem with that reaction. People of color voted Obama in as well. This was followed by the McCain and then the Romney supporters claiming “They are uninformed! They are buying into media hype!” Of course, it was racist back then, and its still racist today. Voting for a democratic socialist doesn’t suddenly change that. If the group that voted for Obama was well-informed and levelheaded just four years ago, how are they suddenly not today? People that voted for Obama and claimed one thing about people of color four years ago, but are now claiming the opposite message about the same group of people today, have a lot of explaining to do.

Thankfully, there are some Sanders supporters that are not saying those things. But… they aren’t really doing much to stand up to those who are. Silence is not always a good thing.

Also of concern are the liberals that say “Sanders or third party!” or “Clinton or third party!” Might as well go vote for Trump, because that is what you are doing. This is different from choosing not to vote (which is a choice I still support, because a freedom is not truly free if it is obligatory). Increasing voter turnout has never been found to change the percentages of who votes. “Republicans win in years when voter turnout is low” is an urban legend. What does change elections is when large swaths of voters that typically vote for one party switch votes and go for a third party candidate. They basically shoot their old party in the foot. Of course, that has never really happened for a presidential election, but Sanders and Clinton have enough support to change that this time if the supporters of which ever one loses do go through with the threat to go third party. I will vote for whoever is not Trump or Cruz no matter how much I don’t like them, because those two are miles beyond worse than anyone else left.

What do I have against Cruz? He twists the Constitution to fit his own warped ultra-right wing theology and then claims to be a constitutional scholar. Sorry, I have designed college classes with true constitutional scholars that are also conservative. They would agree with almost nothing Cruz stands for. And don’t get me started on his twisted version of Christianity.

What I personally want to see for the election is Kasich versus Clinton. They are both the most moderate candidate in their parties (but not by much), so if they go head to head the contest will pull them both more towards the moderate middle. This will change the conversation in the country to a message of coming together on middle ground, which will also usher in more moderate candidates in other elections. The overall effect will create more fertile ground for whoever wins out of the two to create the most real change in this country. People of color see that, and that is why they are voting for these two.

If Sanders and Trump go head to head for the election, it will be a different story: here you would have two people at the polar opposite ends of the spectrum from each other. Their campaigns will further pull people towards those poles, further dividing the nation. More radical people on both ends of the spectrum will be elected in other races as well. No matter which one gets elected, the division their stand-off will cause will create an atmosphere where neither one will be able to accomplish much while in office, meaning less real change. Just look at the last two elections – Obama and McCain/Romney are technically closer to each other than Sanders and Trump, but still far enough apart that their campaign caused major divisions in this country. Obama spent the first half of his presidency attempting to overcome that division, and then the second half doing a fraction of what he could have because the division was still there. It would have been the same for McCain or Romney of they had won. It will be the same, but worse, if Trump and Sanders go head to head.

metamodern-faith-avatarWhat most fans of any candidate most get wrong is thinking that their one candidate can make the changes this country needs. What we really need is a complex scenario of the right people running against each other at the right time starting early enough in the process to create the right atmosphere for real change. But I fear that it is too late on the Republican side to go down that road… no matter how you slice it, Trump does not fit into what this country needs in any way, shape, or form.

Do You Care More About Your Political Views Winning, or the Human Race Winning?

As a moderate, I miss the days when liberals and conservatives were equally clueless. But the right wing insanity regarding the recent issues surrounding gun violence, refugees, Islam, and immigrants has gone to such stupefying levels that I just can’t even deal with all of them with out becoming seriously depressed. An entire political party that no longer cares about reality – just fooling itself into believing it’s fantasies are reality. Its sad, really.

Reason: doesn’t matter
Logic: doesn’t matter
Research: doesn’t matter
What your own scriptures tell you: doesn’t matter
Historical trends: doesn’t matter.

All that matters is sticking it to liberals with idiotic memes. That is pathetic. Grown up people. Our fellow humans are dying and you post a meme that doesn’t even reflect reality – just your political view? Just yesterday, someone on Facebook flat out lied and said guns are illegal in France… just to try and prove me wrong. His actual quote was: “Guns are illegal in France and Mexico.” (they aren’t illegal in Mexico, either, FYI). This “good, Christian person” didn’t care one bit about saying truthful things – just in proving a political point. Let that sink in for a minute.

Look, none of us get out of here alive. But we can make it a good or bad place for each other for the limited time we are here. Do you care more about your political views winning, or the human race winning? You can’t have both. I seriously don’t see anything in the GOP that cares about the human race winning, just a set of political ideologies winning.

And if your first response is “but the liberals….” – I’ll have to deal with Democrats later. Maybe stop your praying to God and start listening to God? A little dose of reality for what God would say to you if you stopped to listen:

The GOP is lying to you.

The media has problems. but the GOP is still lying to you about the media.

Obamacare has problems, but the GOP is still lying to you about Obamacare.

Academia has big problems, but the GOP is still lying to you about academia.

Obama is not the perfect president that liberals make him out to be, but the GOP is still lying to you about Obama.

Islam has its problem, but the GOP is still lying to you about Islam.

Democrats have a lot of problems with their political ideology, but the GOP is still lying to you about the Democrats.

Democratic politicians are also lairs, but the GOP is still lying to you about the Democrat’s lies.

metamodern-faith-avatarYes, that is how bad it has become. You can’t even trust the GOP to correctly expose lies without lying about the lies. Maybe if we had a Republican in the White House right now, it would be the other way around for the Democrats. Who knows? But for now, it’s the GOP that is off the rails, and I don’t even know if they care to get back on.

Duped by Trump

Any student of history will tell you that the media and the politicians have had a long history of trying to control each other. This has usually led to a public show down with the media criticizing politicians and politicians returning the favor. However, I am wondering if that is all changing with the rise of Donald Trump.

Trump is more than a businessman. He is an integral part of the media system as well. From starring in several realty TV shows to sponsoring beauty pageants to appearing in TV commercials and so on, Trump is squarely on the media side of the equation. And if you really examine what he says, it shows. He can’t even keep his story straight over a 10 minute boardroom session on The Apprentice. Media interviews over time shows that his political alliances have shifted from liberal to conservative and back and forth again (basically following where ever the money was at the time). He knows that people won’t really criticize your words if you say enough of the correct buzz terms for one side. If you really listen to what he says on any given political topic today, he just can’t create a consistent stance beyond the top level, bullet point ideas he repeats over and over.

So, ever wondered why people like him so much? I read someone state that he is just telling it like it is. That’s not really true – most of his statements are truly relative – he is just stating one side’s opinion (and the side has changed over the years). Someone else said it is that he is rich, and people know he can’t be bought. Not true either: you can’t be a successful businessman unless you can be bought. How else will you make money? Trump has a long history of going for the money. Yet another person said its because he is dialing into a deep mistrust of Obama.

A-ha. There we have it. People don’t like Obama, Trump doesn’t like Obama, and so people connect with that. The problem is: people’s hatred of Obama is a state of mind bought and paid for by the same people that are putting Trump at the top of the presidential race.

Who are these people? The (right-wing) media. Trump’s own people.

I didn’t vote for Obama. I think there are many things he could have done better on. But the right wing media hatred spearheaded by Fox News is obviously so far over the line that its beyond belief to those that don’t buy it. Obama hates America? He’s a criminal? He’s trying to enslave us all? That’s just extremist talk, with no real proof. Not even close.

I was raised to give credit where credit is due, even to people that I don’t agree with. Obama deserves more credit than the right-wing media gives him.

But those of us that see through this right wing media smoke screen have always wondered: why so extreme? What is the end goal? Blind hatred without a clear end goal is just a waste of money. And the media is not really one to waste money without an end goal.

I think we have  an understanding of that end goal now: Donald Trump. He has been leading the media hatred of Obama for years. And now he is magically in the lead position in the GOP debates? Is anyone else disturbed that Fox News can determine who is in and out of the running with this debate?

metamodern-faith-avatarWhat I think we are seeing is a very well-planned and coordinated plan by the right-wing media to gain more control over the government. They spend years seeding hatred of Obama, slowly whipping it into a blazing (yes, I use that word intentionally there) inferno of blind rage. They find a few people that will do say and do whatever they want (how else can anyone explain The Celebrity Apprentice?). Then push the one that works out the most (Trump) to run. Trump shoots to the top of the polls – front and center at tonight’s debate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear a bunch of questions tonight tailor-made to make Trump sound good.

I know this all sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory, and I hope that it is. Something isn’t adding up and I can’t just chalk it up to chance. I think America has been duped by the Trump.

America Has Always Gone Against Global and Historical Definitions of Marriage

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see people distorting reality to support their narrative. You are free to believe what you want when it comes to any issue, regardless of what the rest of the world or history says about an issue. That is the beauty of living in a metamodernist age: you can believe something even if it is counter-intuitive to the dominant cultural narrative.

But at the same time, if you change the narrative of others to make your narrative seem like it is the one, correct, true narrative, you are doing more harm to your cause than good. With the recent Supreme Court marriage equality decisions, one area that concerns me is how conservative Christians are claiming that SCOTUS is trying to change the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage. The reality is that the historical, global, and religious definitions of marriage are much more diverse than the revisionist idea of a global historical “one man, one woman” idea.

Global and historical definitions of marriage contain a major element of legal polygamy – especially when you want to bring Biblical definitions of marriage into the mix. Additionally, global and historical religious definitions of marriage typically contain a major stream of banning interracial and/or intercultural marriages. The United States redefined global and historical definitions of marriage when we made polygamy illegal in 1862. We also did so multiple points when we made woman equal to men in various marriage issues. And yet again in 1967 when we made interracial marriage legal across the nation.

What is even more ironic is that many conservative political leaders such as Greg Abbot and Ted Cruz are remaining silent about the 1967 Supreme Court decision that made their interracial marriages legal in their home state of Texas, while decrying the 2015 SCOTUS decision that is basically the same kind of decision.

metamodern-faith-avatarThe historical, global, and religious definition of marriage is a complex, often contradictory and paradoxical ideal. The United States has a long history of creating its own definition of marriage (along with many other concepts) based on the underlying ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Additionally, the Evangelical church owes the existence of their entire movement to their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Protestant interpretations of scriptures (and the Protestant church is based on their leaders disagreeing with the historical and global Catholic interpretations of scriptures, and so on back in time).  The idea that there has been a consistent global, historical, or religious way of doing anything is revisionist at best, and dangerous to the true goal of the Church and the United States at its worst.