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Talking to Strangers: Theologies of Lying

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A few years ago, I succumbed to my elderly grandfather’s constant inquiries about my availability to attend his family’s annual reunion. I’d only been a couple of times and knew that I wouldn’t know anyone. When we arrived, I watched people attack the buffet like they’d never eaten before. I guess this is a characteristic of most family reunions. After dinner, we gathered in a circle to remember all the family who’d died the previous year. When they held a picture up of one of many distant uncles, I knew that I’d never seen him before in my life. The cousin that was leading the reflection called on me to offer a few words about the distant uncle in the picture. For a brief few seconds, I closed by eyes to make it seem that I was really meditating on what I was going to say. Truth be known, I was trying to figure out how to get out of the awkward situation as painlessly as possible. When I opened my eyes, I started to speak. Although I spoke in generalities, I gave an impassioned eulogy of someone that I had no knowledge of whatsoever. When I looked up, multiple people were crying. Not long after, we started moving towards the exit. As I walked out, people thanked me for my words. When I got in the car, my grandfather told me that he appreciated what I’d said. The more I thought about it the more I realized that though someone one can get really good at talking about people they don’t know anything about, it’s certainly not the same thing as knowledge and even more problematic…it is a lie.

 

I’ve heard many preachers in my life. Some were entertaining. Some were loud. Some were scholarly. Some were mad. Some were rich. Some were sad. Some were women. Some were gay. All were unique. No matter their description, I’ve found a common characteristic that has struck me about all of them. They are just like me at the family reunion…they are speaking about someone that they don’t know. You can capture people’s attention. You can shout. You can share all sorts of truths. You can sing. You can speak in tongues. You can dance. You can act in a variety of ways and be a variety of things. But if you don’t know the person that you are talking about…you are lying. It’s sad, but most of the preachers I know are liars. I don’t think they would know Jesus if Jesus was standing right in front of them. Maybe Jesus is? As we all live your lives…may leave religion behind and venture out into the magic of spaces unknown…and encounter Jesus there.

 

Amen.

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