By Tom Ehrich
TAHLEQUAH, OK -- I got lost today. Thoroughly lost. But then found.
I was trying to navigate around Tulsa and to avoid four-lane roads. At one point, I took a side trip up Main Street in Muskogee, where Merle Haggard sang, "We like living right and being free."
As I was driving, the Oklahoma legislature was considering a bill to ban the teaching of history based on facts, but rather to stick with lies and puffery about "American exceptionalism."
As I drove back down Main Street, I missed my turn and soon found myself on a back road heading toward the Arkansas River.
I saw an 18-wheeler who also appeared to be lost, so I followed him. I figured he had more getting-found resources than I did. Sure enough he led me back to the right road, and soon I was cruising into Tahlequah.
This is the capital of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee were one of the so-called Five Civilized Nations who tried to adopt white ways in the Southeast. White Georgians decided they wanted the natives' land. So they passed a law declaring the land theirs. The US Supreme Court ruled for the Cherokee. But President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the ruling. So the Georgians took the land anyway and forced the Cherokee onto the "Trail of Tears" to the Indian Territory west of Arkansas. A quarter of them died on the way.
Then in 1889 the territory of Oklahoma decided to jump-start its white settlements with an offer of free land -- the Cherokees' land.
It's no wonder state legislators don't value history that is accurate. It doesn't tell a story they want to remember or learn from.
The problem, of course, is that if you don't know you are lost, you just stay lost and don't take any action to get found. Soon lost seems normal, and those who aren't lost seem threatening. A culture grounded in lies considers honesty dangerous. Truth-tellers get fired for teaching facts or run out of town for preaching reality.
It's easy to lampoon the clowns in the OK legislature. But I think their goal isn't that unusual. Denial and lies are the foundation of addiction, for example. Lies tear apart many marriages. And the lies and half-truths we tell ourselves do untold damage to our self-confidence, self-esteem and ability to function.
Faith is grounded in truth. Not in doctrine, which is just right-opinion claiming too much. Not in tradition, which is habit baptized. Faith depends on truth-telling and truth-hearing. We tell the truth to each other. We seek God's actual response to our humanity, not some positive spin wrapped in Bible quotations. We tell truth to ourselves. We acknowledge our sins and feel remorse.
We all have different views of where our society is. In my opinion, we are living in an age of lies. Politicians lie, advertisers lie, some news outlets lie, all seeking the edge that lying promises. Honesty is for saps, it seems.
My pilgrimage is, among other things, a search for truth -- my truth and God's truth for me. I proceed with a growing awareness that seeking truth exposes me to the danger of lies. I, and you, are at the center of a pitched battle between truth and lie, between good and evil.
Today I got lost and then found because I stopped pretending that I knew where I was.