This is slightly off [Anglican] topic but en route to a training session on Home Communion/Extended Communion in the Parish of Cheviot last night I listened to a fair chunk of news on the radio. Two news matters were given extensive coverage and both annoyed me greatly.
Recently one of our rugby stars, Zac Guildford, has been in the news for well documented difficulties with alcohol, the latest matter occurring in the Cook Islands a few days ago when he turned up at a bar naked, bleeding, drunk and proceeded to fight some of the patrons. Last night I listened to various worthies on our sporting scene comment on the problem this young man had with alcohol. Everyone spoken to was supportive, wanted to help this young man with his problem, to ensure that no further troubles entered his life (like sacking him from his employment by the NZRFU), and, in repeated refrain, he needs "help". All good. Except I strained and strained to hear the one obvious piece of advice, the clear and present solution to this man's crisis in respect of public life and personal problems: "He needs to give up alcohol. That is the key to moving forward here. There is no solution which involves helping him to handle alcohol better. Abstaining is the help he can help himself with."
It just didn't happen. Despite a series of incidents, one of which led to a public declaration of a problem with alcohol in the middle of the World Cup, nothing seemed to trigger in the minds of the wise and loving people in his life talking extensively on the radio last night the truth that would set him free: no more alcohol!
The other matter was the tape recording of a private conversation between our Prime Minister John Key and a noted politician from a rival-yet-possible-coalition-partner party, John Banks. The conversation was taped by a recording device left in a bag on the table in the cafe where the two men had their conversation. The device belonged to a freelance cameraman who was extensively (and sharply) interviewed on National Radio. He explained that the device was in a bag because he had to act hastily in the midst of a media scrum to get a microphone near the two politicians during a photo op before the private conversation took place; the same scrum forcing him away from the table so that when the media were ordered out of the cafe he was not in a position to retrieve the bag. Benefit of the doubt and all that, we assume the truth is being told here. But what would you and I do afterwards, dear readers? Knowing that it is illegal to tape such conversations secretly (as happened when the microphone kept working unbeknown to John and John) we would delete the conversation and conform ourselves to the law of the land. But that is not what the freelance cameraman did.
He handed the tape of the conversation to one of our newspapers, The Herald on Sunday. At that point I am afraid that I found it difficult to agree with the cameraman's plaintive plea in the interview that it was all very innocent what had happened. No, once that decision was taken, the cameraman entered a world in which the reliability of any truth about the actions and motivations of the cameraman was put at risk. The truth will set you free is normally true. In this case the cameraman's disclosures are better described as 'the truth will imprison you in a jail called 'Conjecture'". He may never escape from it!
I often find that the search for the truth by the media gets very close to it but falls annoyingly short of the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Our news via the media is often just news, not good news. The gospel is the good news, the truth that sets us free. Free, not least, to be truthful.