Sunday, October 02, 2005

It came from beneath the sermon

The last couple of weeks, I have had trouble concentrating during the sermon. Maybe I am missing things that would be really valuable to me, I don't know. But instead of staring silently at the pastor, I decided to write.

Here's clips of things I wrote:

[on emotion and worship]

But emotions are made for the outpouring of our hearts to God and others. They betray our inner life that we keep masked. When we are finally so angry that we can't contain it, we yell or slap the table. When we are so sad, we weep. When we are amused, we laugh.

... When we can't contain it any more, we praise him with our lips and our lungs, we sing him songs. We talk about him without stopping. We betray the life we have kept masked, strip away veneers of dignity and sufficiency, strip away our silence and our rationality...

[on truth and storytelling]

... arguments about true and false rest on truth, not truths. We cannot beat against facts with theories or reason from the general to the specific.

If this is all Hume was saying, it's not much. Scientists don't claim to beat against the facts. Theories are not true. Approximations to the truth have degrees of truth. Stories are truth-telling, but not true.

But who would say there is no knowledge in science or wisdom in stories?


[on journalism and narratives]

Beware anyone who tells stories in narrow contexts. They are shielding their interpretation from the facts. There is no such thing as a competing narrative. Stories do not compete: instead they are adequate or inadequate to the facts. When you hear about competing narratives, you are hearing about a large story pared down to selective, narrow facts.

Journalists write articles nowadays that purport to give equal time to competing narratives, or equal criticism to competing parties. They do this by selecting slices of truths in order to maintain the appearance of objectivity. But the truth is that objectivity is faithfulness to the whole story, the large story, all the facts. Objectivity means that truth resides in the facts, not the theory that opposite narratives are equally true, or the theory that opposite parties are equally sinful or deceptive. ...

I can't recommend inattention to everyone, but I know it's not always the worst thing in the world.

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