Tuesday, June 09, 2009
The Importance of Authenticity and Truth
Several years ago it was my great privilege to take an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class at a tech college, something I'd long wanted to do. To my great delight, I loved the class, and at a particular point, we were arranged into groups in order to practice doing patient assessments.
We were in the last third of the course, gaining confidance, and I'd become very good friends with one of my classmates, Heidi. We often studied together, drilled each other as we prepared for our next class, wanting to do well. She and I both were considering advancing to the next level, maybe even to enter paramedic training, and realized we had to have a good foundation in order to do so. It's a competetive field, and while our instructor, himself an active paramedic, was supportive of this, he made no bones about the challenges.
I took this very seriously, as did other students in the class. So to my great surprise, one day when we were practicing random scenarios, one of my partners began giving signs and symptoms that...well...let's just say he was pulling them out of a place where the sun don't shine.
I was trying to do the assessment, and told him outright that the stuff he was putting together made no sense whatsoever. In fact, at that stage, we KNEW what the injuries were, and the practices were to help us put the pieces together, INCLUDING signs/symptoms. He was caught, and said, "It's just practice. It doesn't really matter, especially if you know it anyway."
Well, you know me, and I was fiery even back then! While our instructor was working with the group next to us, he happened to perk up when he heard my group's conversation as I explained to Mr. Confusion the necessity of practicing properly. I explained to him that if we practiced using signs/symptoms that didn't match the injury, we'd associate the wrong things, and in the end, we'd end up killing our patient. Why? Because we wouldn't be in the field with the proper, matching things enforced in our memories, but stuff that was all over the board. Wrong practice leads to dead patients. Period.
I think this "conversation" was one of my early "rants", and even I was surprised at the stream of passionate discourse that came from my lips! (No worries, no profanity, just...um...I emphasized the importance of the details!)
As I said, I took this VERY seriously. Our instructor didn't actually get involved in the conversation, just nodded, told Mr. Confusion to work on those things he was lacking in, and that our goal was...keeping patients alive.
(Actually...our instructor seemed a bit amused by my diatribe. *sigh* Then again, he was used to me, my causing trouble in class...and had no problem slamming me when I did something stupid or weird. Great teacher!)
As usual, I'm sure that you are asking, "Why. Is. This. Relevant?"
GREAT question! Thanks for asking!
The other day, I wrote about the necessity of knowing what comes into our souls, and in how it is imprinted upon us whether we like it or not. Yes, I was talking, at least initially, about the popular book, "The Shack."
Now, people can read whatever they like. In no way am I saying that they cannot. There are legitimate reasons to read things of very questionable and detrimental theological value and I leave that to the (hopefully) well formed conscience of the person making that decision.
If you don't have a well-formed conscience, though, or you know someone who hasn't received any formation, well, then it might be better to stick to something containing authentic truth.
Why? Let's go back to my example: if, in EMT class, our professor had taught us that a person with hypovolemic shock (ie shock from massive blood loss) would have a bounding pulse and flushed face, well, then if we encountered a person in such a condition, they'd bleed out on us because we'd have learned the wrong things! And what if YOU were the person who was injured? You'd know some of your symptoms, maybe, and would begin to treat...and in the meantime, you'd die, thinking, "Oh, I have a weak thready pulse, I must not be bleeding very much....."
(Don't worry...we'd send flowers to your family and offer them our condolences....and our regrets that you hadn't been better trained!)
Theologically, then, if you don't know a lot, and sincerely want to learn, and someone hands you a book full of errors, well, you're going to go on internalizing those errors. You're going to pass them on, and in the end, not only will your "patient" be spiritually dead...but so will you. And you'll propagate that error more quickly than Ebola or Swine Flu.
Look at it this way: if someone comes to you and says they are hungry and in need of a feast, would you go find a dumpster outside of McDonald's, brush the ants off an old burger wrapper and give someone a moldy bun with a rancid smear of condiments but no meat? Sure, maybe SOME of it would be ok, but the rest would be poisonous.
Then why would anyone EVER recommend to someone ASKING for conversion or an introduction to God something that doesn't actually reveal who He Is? Why hand someone a rancid piece of social commentary as opposed to something that will truly feed and sustain them?
In doing such a thing, not only do you kill your patient, but you might be killing yourself.
Truth is important. It's eternal. What we do here on earth has eternal consequences, and eternal rewards. Sure, we can enjoy a work of fiction, but we tend to pay attention to the fact that what we read as teens or adults might not be proper for a child. Why isn't this lens in place for those who maybe have some spiritual maturity and who have the ability to deflect heresy? Why would a spiritually mature person with solid theology give the equivalent of smut to a person new to the Christian life? Sure, the women in the mags might be beautiful, but do they portray true beauty or just make the voyeur bring them down to the lowest possible level, and warp their own intellect/memory/will in the process?
Oh, yes, I went there.
I can read a book like Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter without a qualm, and might even have a legal discourse on the topic, as well as a moral discourse. But I wouldn't recommend it or the material to an 10-year-old.
There IS such a thing as spiritual maturity, and that does not necessarily go along the same timeline as physical maturity.
We really need to consider our personal recommendations to our friends, loved ones, and acquaintences. If our recommendations contain error, then what fruit can come of that? If we recommend heresy to our brother, then how will we have the right to be surprised when he never comes to understand the Truth? Whose fault is it?
If we have the Truth, why would we share anything less? Why would we recommend anything less? If we endorse something that doesn't hold up to scrutiny, then perhaps we need a checkup on our own faith. If we are apologizing for God, then maybe we need to take a step back and be silent before we have a chance to deny Him.
The next time you recommend a book to a soul seeking God...make sure you're not going to be held responsible for the damage done to that soul. Make sure....because you will suffer even more for it.
Makes you glad for the grace of Confession, doesn't it? ;-)