Ask the athletes, and they will tell you. The camera disabuses us of false perceptions of grandeur. Years ago, I scored the sole touchdown of my sixteen years of football. It was my first game back after three torn ligaments threatened to derail my career and close off any route to higher education. Ranging the field from my position at linebacker, I saw the runner scramble to the right, and while getting tackled, drop the ball. Athlete that I am, I scooped it up and sprinted to the end zone. Afterwards, I dropped to a knee for quick prayer and went to celebrate with my teammates. At least that is how I remembered it. The next week, during the video session, I was surprised to learn that what to me had been a sprint to fame, came across slightly less gloriously on screen. My coach described it tersely: We could have timed your forty-yard dash with a calendar. I had seen the enemy, and his name was video.
It is unsettling to live in a culture that no longer wants to see the truth; rather, we hope to see our biases confirmed. We watch a 12 year old boy get shot and a man get choked to death, but we are told that a little context can explain all, or better still, we are informed that these pieces of video are not indicative of a wider problem in our society; they are unfortunate tragedies, inexplicable and unpreventable. When worldviews are at stake what is a motion picture, captured on a phone, supposed to do? So we wait for the experts, usually from our favorite media outlets, to explain what we saw and instruct us on the finer points of the law.
I had an uncomfortable feeling of nostalgia, with the roles startlingly reversed, when I watched the coverage of yet another video make its way around the internet. The Planned Parenthood footage, undoubtedly edited for maximum effect, was shared among a certain segment of the population until, begrudgingly, the various news organizations were forced to discuss it. Again, I was told what I did and did not see, and then educated on the intricacies of standard medical practice. Context would explain everything. Worldviews were at stake, and the idea that what happens at Planned Parenthood could be morally problematic could not be countenanced. Who were we to believe, our worldviews or our lying eyes?
I used to wonder why God did not send Jesus during the age of the Internet and the video. If we had an IPhone at the empty tomb things might be different. We could huddle skeptics into movie theatres, churches, and open fields to show them the resurrection. There he is! He is alive; we told you. But today I am reminded that, in large part, we see what we want to see, and if the evidence does not support our conclusions, we close our eyes and cover our ears, wishing it away as the children do to their late arriving monsters. But the truth is not so easily tamed.
What does the Christian do in the age of closed eyes and covered ears, when all are afraid of monstrous truths that threaten to unravel the tidy narratives we like to tell ourselves? We pursue the truth with verve, trusting that when we arrive there, Truth himself has run ahead of us and is waiting to welcome us home. Take our two examples. If we pursued the truth regarding what happens to blacks in America to the very end, would we not find Jesus in the midst of that pain bidding us to advocate for a justice indicative of his coming kingdom? Were we to chase the truth about life at conception to the utmost, would we not find Jesus there telling us that he made each of us for a purpose, and that love demands a consistent ethic of human life? The Christian, then, is not afraid of video or science or anything else because we have been told that embracing the truth is a means of finding freedom; it is a path bursting with the glory of God.