Jeremiah and the News of the Week
The prophet Jeremiah makes the following observation:
“The human heart is devious (deceitful) above all else; it is perverse, who can understand it.” (Jeremiah 17: 9) Jeremiah was never accused of being upbeat.
This week, I wrote a piece on how retired clergy too often become inappropriately involved mucking around in the life of the church they once, but no longer, serve.
My observation has been that when this happens the retired or former pastor in question is not entirely ignorant of the problems with such behavior, but they judge themselves and the matter at hand to be “different.” The rules don’t apply to them. Their motives are pure. Their case is special.
Jeremiah’s words come to mind. Our capacity for self-deception is, well, let’s just say, significant. Some might say “boundless.”
That observation and verse also seem an apt commentary on the news of the week. A big part of which was the testimony before Congress of former Trump “fixer,” Michael Cohen.
I agree with the commentator who said there’s a good bit of “political theater” in such hearings. But I disagree with his dismissal of all that transpired there this week. I found Cohen believable. Moreover, I don’t think he had anything to gain from this testimony, other than a few more moments in the bright light of the cameras.
Perhaps, as many have said, there were no surprises in what Cohen said. “We’ve heard all this (about Trump) before.” I’m not entirely sure that’s true. There was some new information. Either way, the testimony still seems significant. This is a person (Trump) who will lie about anything and everything.
Republicans on the Congressional committee interrogating Cohen only provided further confirmation, as if it were necessary, of Jeremiah’s observation. They were happy to impugn Cohen’s character while giving Trump a complete pass. But if lying is a bad thing, isn’t it bad no matter who does it?
They — the Republicans — were, apparently, disinterested in anything the President might have done that is illegal or unethical. Their only concern was Cohen’s truthfulness or lack thereof. Really, given Trump’s incessant prevarications, this is laughable.
But, of course, it is not enough to apply Jeremiah’s caustic observation only to others.
The challenge is to hold one’s own capacity for self-deception under the light of self-examination and judgment. Note: Lent begins next week, a full 40 days for self-scrutiny.
Speaking of “judgment,” I found it interesting that David Brooks, in reviewing the testimony and week, relied on the idea that there is judgment, that vice is punished and virtue rewarded. Here’s Brooks,
“Here is the commandment that experience teaches us: Immorality usually bites you in the ass. If you behave in a way that betrays relationship and obliterates the truth and erases your own integrity, you will sooner or later wind up where Michael Cohen has wound up — having ruined your life.”
“Immorality usually bites you in the ass.” Does it?
The same Jeremiah who observed that the human heart is deceitful above all things, also asked God, “Why do the wicked prosper? (12: 1) He was aware that the idea that there is a just, moral order to the universe could very well seem naive and suspect, or at least not easily confirmable by empirical observation.
So what now?
Some see the on-going examination of Trump’s record as a sideshow and distraction, a relentless attempt to undermine a duly elected President.
Others see the slow wheels of justice at work.
Where it comes out, I don’t know. Will we re-elect this “con-man and cheat.” Or will he crash and burn even before 2020? What’s the Chinese curse? “May you live in interesting times.”
Jeremiah would suggest that all of us review our own motives and actions beneath a bright light and steady gaze.
Lent is coming.