April 24, 2017
Is truth dead?
Time magazine sparked a cultural furor when – in April, 1966 – the cover posed the stark question, “Is God Dead?” The erosion of faith in America was the real story; God was not dead, but the relationship of Americans with him had been deeply eroded.
It’s been 51 years, but they’re at it again, with a feature story a few months back introduced by the replication of the provocative cover from ’66: “Is Truth Dead?”
Sparked by recent mash-ups between politicians and the press, the search for truth has taken on the aura of a reality program: a contrived exercise played-out in a public spotlight, known by viewers to be a fictional production, but fascinating to people who choose to swallow whatever is fed them by their chosen media.
Let me cut to the chase: the two stories are inextricably connected. Without realizing it, Time introduced a two-part treatment in 1966, and waited a half-century to publish the follow-up. If God is dead, truth is dead.
Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign was staged against a premise that informed everything they did. The banner restating their emphasis in the campaign office framed their identity: “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” (author: James Carville; c. 1992) What’s the principle issue, today?
It’s not the economy. It’s not terrorism. It’s not the environment. It’s not the internet. The national surveys designed to find the next hot-button around which the mid-term congressional campaigns will be organized won’t have the principle issue reflected in the questions.
If God is dead, truth is dead. If God and truth are no longer in vogue, there are no ground rules for life. Without transcendence, it’s survival of the fittest, and might does makes right. Without Him, money is the ultimate scorecard; “if it feels good, do it” exists without moral constraint. If God is alive – and, truth is still meaningful – modern culture has a real problem…
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-32) “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie…” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11) “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
So… “Make America Great Again?” Find the time – in the past – when America was deemed to be great. Wipe the dust off the chronicles of the period, and ask what was defining the national conversation among a people living in what was – in retrospect – a time of “greatness.”
Here’s a guarantee: the magazines of the period were not asking the questions, “Is God Dead?” and, “Is Truth Dead?” The propositions would be considered preposterous: if God is alive, then truth is genuine, and the people who live with those certainties experience the blessings of Heaven.
How will I portray the living God and His truth today? How will you?