Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


John 9:18-41:

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

This morning's Gospel story in the Daily Office is a pretty good reminder about "truth-telling" when there is an elephant in the room--namely, the minute a person tells an uncomfortable truth, it will pretty much be a given that there will be attempts to discredit the witness--sometimes even by people who care about that person.

Look at our story today. Earlier in John 9, Jesus has just healed a man blind from birth by putting mud on his eyes. The Pharisees are dealing with the uncomfortable truth that Jesus is running around healing people in the name of the same God they worship. They are wondering, "Why don't WE have that kind of power?" They resort to the oldest courtroom trick in the book--discredit the witness.

"He kind of LOOKS like the blind beggar...are we SURE he's the blind beggar?"

"Maybe he's not blind at all and we're being scammed. Let's drag his parents in."

"Let's get him to change his story under threat of being thrown out of the temple."

It's the stuff cop movies are made of.

Even his own parents are afraid of that "being thrown out of the temple" part. They give a rather circuitous answer to the high priests. "Hey, look...all we are saying is this guy has been blind since he was born. We're his parents, we ought to know. Why would we lie to you about that? As for how he got healed, uh...you'll just have to ask him yourself. I'm telling you we don't know anything else."

They weren't going to risk being thrown out of the temple. They sort of gave up their son in that "Son, you're on your own, there...we're not risking our reputation in the community," sort of way.

In those days, being born with a disability carried with it a mindset of "Someone must have sinned really badly in your family for this to have happened to you." So the Pharisees have one point right off the bat in discrediting the man's witness. It's ultimately what they resort to, when the man does not relent and simply repeats over and over that Jesus healed him. They try to get him to lessen Jesus' role in this. They try to reason him into a different point of view. But when these things don't work, they throw up their hands and say, "Get out of my temple, you worthless piece of crap! Who do you think you are, born with all those sins, telling US what to do? Shoo! Go away!"

Unfortunately, that is what happens when someone tells an uncomfortable or an inconvenient truth too much of the time. Some folks have spent the better part of a decade discrediting Al Gore for even starting the ball rolling on discussions of global warming. Granted, we can fight about the details, but the fact is he raised some points that were uncomfortable to deal with...and now it is no longer about those points, but somehow it morphed into Tipper and his failed marriage. Some of the voices in the state of Louisiana have been discredited when they say they have been beaten down by the BP oil spill so close to the aftermath of Katrina. ("They're a bunch of uneducated Cajuns and African-Americans and don't want to work--what do they know? If they don't like it they can leave and go get a job.") Women who have been raped are put on the stand and cross-examined about how seductively they were dressed. Abused spouses have to run the gauntlet of discrediting statements the abuser might make to "their" friends about how crazy or controlling or difficult the abused spouse is.

But the fact remains--tell an uncomfortable truth and there will be an attempt for the person to be discredited over the facts.

This is not easy when a person is the "truth-teller." All truth, really, is a combination of facts and our own projection of the facts as we see the situation. Pontius Pilate wasn't just being evasive when he asked "What is truth?" at Jesus' trial. He was just stating a fact. Truth is always tempered (and hampered, to some degree) by perception. It rarely is free of judgment.

I spend most weekdays of my life looking down a microscope and assigning diagnostic names to pieces of tissue. I try to tell the truth as best as I see it. I might look at a needle biopsy of a lung and say, "This is moderately differentiated adenocarcinoma." But if the person does not want to hear he has lung cancer, he might blurt out, "I want a second opinion." The implication, of course, is that a pathologist in Kirksville, MO is too stupid to know if someone has lung cancer. The hope is "somebody screwed up that I can blame, and maybe I can even get a little money out of THEIR screwups." Maybe the container was labeled wrong. Maybe that pathologist is just stupid.

Oh, don't get me wrong. People in my line of work make mistakes. I've made a few myself--mercifully not any big ones that had consequences that I know of--and there could well be ones I don't know about--and honestly, if that were the case, I would just have to accept my fallibility and get on with my life, whatever "getting on with my life" meant.

But the vast majority of the time, when that scenario happens, I step away from it and remind myself that someone out there is simply afraid, because they have been told they have cancer. I have learned not to fear the angry person who comes into my office with the accusatory tone of voice and demands I send their biopsy elsewhere to "doctors who know what they're doing, not these quacks in this one-horse town."

I've also learned not to take personally the angry cross-examining of specialist doctors from out of town who want to scapegoat me for a patient not getting the diagnosis they could work with, but rather the more dismal one. I recently had to endure the dressing down by a specialty doctor who was angry at me because I am not clairvoyant, and would not accept the responsibility for "not knowing something" when I was not TOLD anything TO know about the details of what was to happen with the patient's treatment.

I find it interesting how people sometimes need to say to another, "You're wrong," to feel better about themselves, or to hide the fact they might have dropped the ball a little, too.

BUT--for every time I get mad that someone is trying to discredit me, I have to step back and say, "...and who have I discredited to make myself feel better?" We are not immune. We are very good at seeing that one in others but not ourselves.

Maybe we should just be more like the blind man and rejoice in the truth of being healed.

2 comments:

Right on! Disenfranchised is a word that is popping around alot. Largess people or crudely - fat people - are some that get a bum rap. Obesity automatically means uneducated, lazy, indolent, gluttons. You name it bad and it is related to being chubby. Teenagers were given pictures of folks with disabilities and a fat person. Asked which one they would hate to be the most and the majority picked out fat. Only one that got more votes was the amputee. Pretty good indictment of society that takes a physical attribute and discredits a person more than their intellect. Stacked and stupid or fat and intelligent. Duh!!!

Absolutely. What also concerns me is the increase in the "vitriol titer" these days--the ability to dehumanize and flame at will. All of this stems from one thing--lack of compassion.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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