Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So, You Think You Know the Truth About Marie Antoinette?

According to Juliet Grey, you may not.

It seems that Antoinette was (and remains) the victim of numerous falsehoods noised around in the blogs and the 24-hour news, in the newspapers...of her time.

Often, it seems, we forget that the public figures we excoriate are, first of all, human beings, and second, that the things we "know" about them may not be true at all.

God's eighth commandment is, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Jesus makes clear that our "neighbor" is any other human being. In his explanation of the eighth commandment in The Small Catechism, Martin Luther says:
We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way.
Luther himself, of course, would have done well to remember the commandment's meaning when he debated. But it doesn't make his explanation any less valid.

I've probably been as guilty of saying nasty things and asserting unproven "facts" about public figures as The National Tattler.

The law--even God's law--can't clear away our guilt or help us chart new courses when it comes to the eighth commandment, any more than it can with our violation of any of the other commandments.

But God's law, His commands, can point us to the things for which we need to repent, driving us to seek the forgiveness God offers to all through Jesus Christ. The charity (what the Bible calls, grace) we find in Christ brings not only forgiveness, but the presence of God's Holy Spirit in our lives. The Spirit, in turn, can help us grow in God's grace. The Holy Spirit can teach us to defend, speak well of, and explain the actions of others...can cause us even to question the myths we might believe about public figures, historical and contemporary.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't criticize politicians, of course. But it does mean we need to ask for God's help in doing so with civility, charity, and even love. As some prominent contemporary media types could tell you, habitual slander, gossip, or lying about others and the bad reputations they create can sometimes boomerang on us. If we live by the ethic of "where there's smoke, there must be fire," we must not be surprised when others believe the smoke people may blow about us.

And about that dismissive quote, "Let them eat cake," falsely ascribed to Marie Antoinette, I have to admit that I've always liked cake!

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