Monday, March 28, 2011

Truth is a difficult thing to see.

So this weekend I was privileged to teach the Confirmation Class in my Religious School and we started talking about God and the Bible. It was an intense conversation with some surprising and I must say really surprising comments by the students. When Rabbi Sandy came in the discussion got more intense and in the end we realized the simple truth that the Bible and our understanding of God was never meant to be a static thing, but we define our contact with God, holiness and our understanding of the Bible by who we are as individuals and as a people. We seek a truth not THE TRUTH. We can see the myth of Adam and Eve are powerful stories but do we have to believe that the earth was created in 6 24 hour days in last 6000 years for it to have power. Of course not. The truth comes through. Our perspective plays a role.

I lived with the students' words as I ventured down to the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre's production the The Gospel According to James. The play is based on the story of an August 1930s lynching in Marion Indiana. There was one survivor and he went on to spend time in jail, got out, get educated, work for civil rights, create a museum for African Americans to remember the history of lynching in the US and later get a pardon. The play centers around the dialogue of two people. Mary Ball and James Cameron. You see the story told was that James and two friends Thomas Shipp, 18, and Abe Smith, 19. were out to stick up someone for some fun money. Found Mary and her boyfriend Claude Deeter in a car. Tried to stick them up but James knew Claude and couldn't do it and ran off. The rest is unclear. But Deeter died, Abe, Thomas and James were arrested. A crowd formed and pulled the first two from the jail, murdered them and hanged them. When they went to hang James, then 16 years old, a voice from the crowd saved him. Someone, one voice, stopped the lynching. We can talk about the power of that voice some other time. However the play has Mary and James telling very different stories. Each remembers the night but remembers it differently and each has a real good reason for the difference. Their recollections are discussed 50 years after the event. Most of those present that night had all passed on. There was a sad reality that in the heart of the play was that we remember and think what we need to or want to get out of the story. James, for example, until his last day saw the voice that saved him as that of an angel. Others think it was a member of the crowd who while in the midst of horror found his humanity.

But the over riding message to me yesterday was that truth is an elusive thing to nail down, especially when strong emotions are involved. Our connection to God, the horrors of murder both require our perspective. Go and see the play and it will help you understand what I mean. Remember what we see in life is always interpreted based on who we are. So much more so of our memory. With Bible, God or a horrific event who we are constructs meaning far more than the actual events and words. With that in mind we might see everything differently.

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