Spin vs. Simplicity

St. Francis preaching to the birds
All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church, Photo by Ron Ross

Over the last few Sundays, the Epistle readings have been from the Letter of James, one of the shorter books of the Bible.  It is near the end of the New Testament, just before Revelation.   Last Sunday’s reading began with James 5:13, but I wish it had included verse 12.  In that verse James encourages people to be careful about swearing oaths.  He concludes the section, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no…”  Jesus says the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount, but even if we heard these scriptures every Sunday, I’m not sure they would be any easier for us to follow.
In an election year such as this, with advertising and campaigning all around, simple truth is scarce.  Almost every party or person adds a slant, a spin, or a tone that affects the way things are said and tries to affect the way things are heard.  While we all know when someone is trying to persuade us, I wonder how much the sense of “spin” affects the things we say as individuals.  I don’t have much control over political advertising, but I can try to practice clarity and honesty in my own speaking.   

When I tell a story, answer a question, or try to explain a decision I have made, I suppose it is only natural to want to justify myself and present myself as competent and thoughtful.  But how often do I adjust things ever so slightly?  How often do I add an extra sentence in an effort to charm or color?  Are there times when I phrase things in just such a way as to leave the impression that my own role in something has been more than it actually has been?  This is a challenge—but a holy one, I think—to let my yes be yes, and my no be no. 

We celebrate St. Francis of Assisi this weekend and will continue to reflect on his life through the year.  Francis was simple.  He was not formally educated and he did not view the world with nuance.  He spoke simple truth.  He lived with simplicity, and he sought to be a brother to the simplest of God’s creatures.  Even though Francis traveled and preached, journeyed and served, he didn’t “spin.” He didn’t try to enhance or exaggerate his life, his words, or even his God.  Instead, wherever he went, whatever condition he was in, Francis offered himself completely to Christ.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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