Remember this signature line from the stoic, deadpan Sgt. Joe Friday in the crime series Dragnet. Pad and pencil in hand, Sgt. Friday only jotted down information which would lead to the truth and solve the crime. How he supposedly knew why some info was more “factual” than other always puzzled me.
I am driving around late today, a beautiful sunny, cool afternoon, running errands, when I come to a stoplight and see a familiar bumper sticker:
“The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it!”
I suddenly remember that classic kids’ palaver I used to have with my brother over something he saw and I didn’t see, and it gets reduced to: “Who says so?” “I say so.” “Well, I say it isn’t true!” “I say it is true. “ I say it isn’t.” “Yes, it is!” No, it isn’t!” “Yes, it is!” “No, it’s not!” And that’s usually where we leave it, laughing our heads off and never knowing if it was true – or snot! For a young boy, biological functions always seem to trump truth.
So, how do you get to the truth?
Just get the facts, like Sgt. Friday?
With all due respect to Friday, nothing could be further from the truth, I think. Data can always be twisted and turned and reshuffled to meet whatever emotional, historical, familial or cultural need exists. One of my theology profs used to say, “You can torture the truth long enough to make it say anything you want it to.”
In the Gospel story of Doubting Thomas, the disciple earns the dubious, historical, distinction of being the iconic skeptic, and unfaithful disciple, believing the Resurrected Jesus (as we’re told in the Gospel of Matthew) only after he sees (and touches) “the facts”. “Blessed are those who have believed but have not seen,” the text continues.
But is it fair to relegate Thomas to the negative associations he’s been given as the one whose belief depended on “the facts” and not faith?
In reality, history has shown that blind faith can bring about disastrous, destructive consequences, especially where faith and fact are twisted and tortured to the benefit the needs of human greed, ignorance or power.
This Sunday, Rev Linda McDermott takes the witness stand in eleven:eleven to deliver a message on seeing Thomas’ action in a different light, one that is sure to shed some insight on the importance of doubt and questioning in matters of history and spirituality, as we continue our series on finding joy in a life of paradox.
“Doubting Thomas: Patron Saint of Skeptics”.
Hope to see you Sunday.