Belfast Telegraph

The truth hurts, but honesty always Trumps the peddling of falsehoods

By Alf McCreary

One of the most profound stories in literature is that of Pontius Pilate's question to Jesus "What is truth?" It is a question that continues to perplex us more than 2,000 years later, and one that has been brought into sharp focus by current major developments at home and abroad.

Last Saturday the vulgarian Donald Trump attended an inter-denominational prayer service in the beautiful Anglican Cathedral in Washington.

That evening a British television reporter in Washington claimed that the nation needed more than prayers to survive the reign of this new President.

Nevertheless, his character flaws did not stop him becoming President, and like Pope Francis we should try and give him time to prove himself, even if his first week has been upsetting.

However, we are already hard-pressed to judge where fact merges into fiction .

A good example of this was the row over the alleged number of people who attended Trump's inauguration.

Various media outlets reported that there was a markedly smaller turnout than for Obama's inauguration.

Trump angrily denied this and sent out his hapless press secretary to confront the media. When reporters persisted, the press secretary walked out of the room.

Two days later I watched Trump supporters rubbish the media claims, and one of them even said that the facts did not matter.

This is dangerous nonsense of the kind that you find in Putin's Russia. If people do not want to accept the facts, our Western democracies are in deep trouble.

We are now in a post-truth society, which is a polite way of talking about half-truths and total lies.

Some of these are so obvious that they hardly bear repeating. Did Russia interfere with the American election? Of course it did. But if Putin denies this often enough, many people will believe him.

The search for truth is also controversial nearer home. Prime Minister Theresa May refused point blank to give any details to the media about the serious fault that happened during a test of the Trident missile system.

Some people will agree that she was right not to discuss such matters publicly, but we still do not know what happened.

Here at home there are many rumours and bitter accusations about the scandalous mess created by the RHI fiasco, and there is an urgent need to find the truth.

There is no doubt that the retired judge who heads the RHI inquiry will do everything in his power to discover the truth, but his findings may not please everybody.

The search for truth also applies to people in their everyday lives. How many are living behind an image,? Even when faced with the truth, many folk are unable to accept it. Too often they take the easy way out and obey the maxim "Whatever you say, say nothing".

This has been apparent throughout our recent history. It took a very long time and a great deal of money for the Saville Inquiry to finally expose the truth about Bloody Sunday.

It also took a very long time for the truth about institutional child sex abuse to be revealed by investigators, including the findings of the recent inquiry chaired by Judge Anthony Hart.

These inquiries shone a clear light on dark quarters and brought a sense of relief that these evils had been exposed.

This did not bring full redress to the victims, but the truth always has a cleansing effect. Perhaps that underlies the Biblical exhortation that if people adhere to the teachings of Christ, they will know the truth and the truth will set them free.

It may take a long time to burrow beneath the bombast of Donald Trump or of the Stormont debacle to find out the truth.

In the meantime, it is the duty of everyone inside and outside the churches to be on their guard.

We ignore the truth at our peril, so never stop asking yourself, "What really is true?" You might be surprised about your answers.

Belfast Telegraph


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