Spirit of Truth
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own..."
June 10, 2022, Words By: Fred Laceda, Image By: Blakely Dadson
There is a story that has haunted my country for the past six years. It’s the story of those killed in the government’s war on drugs. Police say 6,000 have died. Human rights observers say the number is closer to 30,000. Regardless of whose statistics you use, far too many lives have been taken.
Many people, including Christians, shrug and want to bury, deep within our collective consciousness, the pain and suffering of those who lost their loved ones. But truth cannot be buried forever.
At the tail end of our incumbent President’s regime, the truth was literally unearthed. With the help of Raquel Fortun, a forensic pathologist, and Father Flavie, a Catholic priest, some of the families of victims were able to exhume the remains of their loved ones. Doctor Fortun’s findings so far have yielded a sobering result: most are men with bullet wounds to the head, including some victims the police claimed died of “natural causes.” What’s more, the majority of victims come from the “poorest of the poor,” she notes.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now…”(John 16:12)
To paraphrase Jesus in this week’s lectionary, it’s as if we still cannot bear to hear the truth.
A question that haunts me is why there’s no outcry, either from within the church or outside of it, for the killings happening in the corridors of our communities? The obvious answer for many is fear. Fair enough. That may be the case for some people, especially the most vulnerable.
But now that the killings have been normalized, fear has lost its crippling capacity as a mechanism for social control over many people. Which leaves us with a more insidious answer — the absence of truth.
Since the start of the killings there has been a narrative that accompanies this violent campaign — that they deserve to be killed because they are the country’s biggest social ill, and eradicating them will magically fix our problems. This is how myth-making is made.
If this story seems familiar, that’s because it is. We’ve seen it repeated throughout history. We have a name for it — scapegoating. Sadly, many accept this myth, that violently eradicating a scapegoat will solve our problems, as truth. But it couldn’t be further from the truth!
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth;” (John 16:13)
The truth is not found through violence and scapegoating, but in the nonviolent way Jesus responded to it. Jesus’ life and death reveal to us that: (1) There is no violence in God. (2) That the proclivity towards violence is strong in the human condition.
In our country, the narrative around ‘drug addicts’ is part of a bigger systematic assault on truth and truth-tellers. Activists, human and environmental rights defenders, academics, and journalists are risking their lives because they dare speak truth to power. The problem of deception goes deeper than just trying to manipulate facts; There’s a wholesale attempt to claim a divine mandate for violence and to dehumanize those who are scapegoated.
Can truth thrive in an environment of deceit and deception?
Many analysts comment that there’s an ecosystem of disinformation in our country. A well-oiled machine that pumps falsehood on a daily basis. And many others filter reality through social media algorithms that only tell them what they want to hear. The result is that many people have become desensitized and apathetic, or worse — intentionally blind to facts and the truth.
In this week’s lectionary text, John 16:12-15, Jesus says that the Spirit of truth will take what is His and declare it to us. I’m longing for the Spirit of truth to breeze through our country! What was dug up by doctor Fortun and father Flavie are not just bones of the victims, but also the truth. Not just because they uncovered the facts, but because they reminded us of the lies that support scapegoating and violence. For me, this is the unbounded work of the Spirit of truth.
Dwelling Among Us
What is your prayer for how the Spirit of God’s truth would move in your context?