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Monday, November 7, 2011

"Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is responsibility."

This statement struck me when I read it. It struck me as the most succinct way to phrase something I have been pondering lately.

I have come to a deep and unsettling realization over the last year that people have a proclivity to compartmentalize what they know, or rather what they choose to know and/or understand. When people are confronted with something that has not been "their reality" and then ask "Why would I want to know?", they have made a choice, but is it a God honoring one?  Do they willfully ignore what others tell them, and the fall-out of the truth that is clearly and publicly seen, or do they pursue more knowledge of the situation in order to be aware of it's true nature so their thoughts and actions will be informed?

I submit that many, even those who claim Christ,  will choose ignorance over responsibility. Ignorance requires nothing, knowledge and truth, on the other hand, are not passive. Knowledge often must be coupled with action.  They require something from the one who possesses them as they become aware of them. Knowing the right thing to do comes pretty easily- it is not a hard matter. However doing what is right, the application of principles and knowledge, is not often easy.

In scripture we are admonished to actively pursue truth. There are many references to truth in the bible underscoring how important it is to God, but I will speak to one specifically.

  • Proverbs 23:23 states "Buy the truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding." (ESV)

The Bible Knowledge Commentary states:
  • "Buying the truth suggests spending whatever energy or financial resources are necessary to acquire truth, along with wisdom, discipline and understanding."

The Believer's Bible Commentary states:
  • "We should be willing to pay a great price for truth, but unwilling to sell it for any consideration. The same goes for wisdom and instruction and understanding. We should spare no pains to acquire them, but never surrender them for anything in this world."

I will bring this back to a personal situation. Earlier this year my husband got in trouble with his employer (a Christian institution) for speaking the truth to the church about several situations where they had violated ethics and Godly principles. Great problems arose when my husband spoke up after well over a year of trying to speak with the administration about these violations. There existed no avenue to bring things to anyone other than the President- and it is well known one needs to stay on his "good side" if they desire to keep their job. Dissent is not tolerated- one must speak only well, or suffer the consequences.

When my husband's letter came to the attention of the President my husband was immediately banned from campus and his office- with 6 weeks of classes and his contract left. (Banning him from his office was in violation of the law which states my husband had every right to his belongings.) A 24-hour armed guard was placed outside of his office door, the lock changed and his work computer was removed. A few days later we were granted two hours to remove "the things you need immediate access to". We were not fooled- we removed everything that belonged to us in his office and studio. My husband was very clear from the beginning that he hoped to keep this a matter for the church to deal with. He refused any interview by the local paper, the denominational paper, and local bloggers that requested them.

What ensued over the next few months was literal hell, all at the hands of those who profess Christ and who's actions are to be ruled by mercy and love, according to scripture.

  • The President of my husband's institution sent a total of three letters before my husband's contract was up- in two of them threatening to cut his pay and benefits if he did not sign saying that he was "dishonest, in breach of contract, and insubordinate". Since my husband was none of the above- he refused to be pressured by financial considerations. Truth was more important than financial exigency. The third letter was the same as the previous two, only it told him that if he refused to sign, his pay and benefits would be cut off in a matter of hours from the deadline.  He refused to sign, and the institution did, indeed cut off his benefits and pay , curiously, this was effective the day before the accrediting agency was due to visit. They violated the law by breaching the contract that was still in effect. 
  • They were forced to retract those actions after our lawyer reminded them that they had violated their own faculty handbook as there was no provision for immediate dismissal.
  •  A lawyer you say? Aren't you Christians? Why did you involve a lawyer? Simply put- we were forced to due to the institutions complete dishonesty and total disregard for their own institutional policies which they were violating left and right. The church (who happens to own the institution) did nothing to hold them accountable. 
  • Nine days before my husband's contract was due to expire and well over a month after this all began- the institution decided to try and have him dismissed through hearings. Nine days- and he was not contracted to come back the next year anyways. It was purely vindictive on their part. The truth had come out and my husband was going to pay. 
  • The 'hearings' convene. On the first day the colleges lawyer was present acting in an advisory capacity. She was advising the Advisory Committee- and all parties as to procedure. Sounds fishy you say? Absolutely. Ethically she had no place acting in an advisory capacity to any other than her client- the President of the college who was the one bringing the trumped up charges. Curiously- the Advisory committee was to render an impartial decision and then advise the President of the institution what they thought he should do. Yes- you noted correctly above- that was the same President who was bringing the 'charges'. Rigged? Yep. Further, the school's attorney was determining how the proceedings would transpire. Instead of the President making a case and my husband having the ability to then answer, they had concocted some odd procedure that forced my husband to go first. It was said, by their lawyer, to be in the form of an appellate hearing. My Father-In-Law (a former appellate court judge) was astonished when we spoke to him afterwards. You see appellate hearings are not the first step in proceedings- they are to follow the initial proceeding.  The school was not only violating their own written policies, but also violating my husbands rights to due process. It was a mess. 
  • It was clear to our lawyer that legal action needed to be taken to protect my husband and a restraining order was filed by us. We did not know that a restraining order would be the filing of a lawsuit. What we did know was that it was an end-game move on our part. We were granted a 10 day restraining order by the judge who agreed that egregious violations were taking place. My husband's contract ended in 9 days. We were sooo done and happy to walk away at that point which was clearly communicated to the institution and their lawyer.
  • According to the faculty handbook faculty members can testify on behalf of other faculty. The one faculty member who would step forth on behalf of my husband did not have her contract renewed even after she had received an exemplary evaluation that year and a letter promising a contract. 
  • A couple of weeks later we were quite surprised to discover that the institution had filed to move the case, which we'd communicated we were dropping to Federal Court. "What on earth???", was our response. They had hired a firm in a larger nearby city to represent them and were requesting we pay their legal fees and the $500 we had put up as security for the restraining order against them. Again- purely vindictive- trying to make us pay in any way they could manage.
  • Long story short- the institution drops what is now their case- after the Federal judge convenes a conference call asking their counsel if they are really sure they desire to continue as it's the smallest set of damages he's ever seen requested in a case in his years as a Federal judge.  
You might be wondering what the point of the above narrative is. It is this:

  • We are not to sell the truth. We are to purchase it by any resources/means necessary, even if it comes at great personal cost.
In our situation we are left at an odd spot. A spot I wish we were not. We have seen first-hand the depths to which people will ignore truth because the cost is greater than they wish to pay, financially, personally, professionally or politically. We are in a small community. The institution has significant reach within it. We have seen person after person reflect the saying told to us by the one above that our situation "is not my reality", so I really am not interested in what you are saying. I'll admit- I am still confounded by that response. The proof of what we have experienced is available to any (in the form of multiple documents) who care to take an honest look at the situation. The problem is there has been precious little seeking after truth. Someone recently told me that "As long as the music is good on Sundays. people don't care." I have found that to be true, at it fills me with great sadness.

Someone told my husband that the problem was that he (my husband) wanted him (the other person) to agree with him. That person could not have missed the point by any wider of a margin. It was not about agreement- it was about one's responsibility to seek the truth and seek understanding even if it challenges one's currently held perceptions. Humility, honesty and faith require discernment.

The truth is a whole, a constant. "Cherry-picking" certain aspects mis-represents it, just as the Serpent's statements in the garden mis-represented God's words to Adam and Eve.

As people of faith we are told that "by their fruit ye shall know them"- them being they who are truly Christ's. 

There is a world out there that is watching. They are well versed in what we claim as our operating principles, often much better versed than we are. If you claim Christ and even shout His name loudly within the community, the onlookers will be sure to hold you to that standard. Everyone fails at points, we are human. It happens. A refusal to be transparent and look honestly at ourselves and admit our faults and failures destroys our witness and we will be held accountable one day.

It's not about how you look, it's about who you are. In my opinion, the church needs to reassess itself. If our 'image' is more important than truth- then we are missing the point. Entirely. 

As I mentioned there has been great cost to us in this whole situation. It's been emotionally exhausting and we still owe gobs of money to our lawyer and have experienced little emotional support from within our church which has left me with multiple questions and concerns about how the church at-large functions. That said -there have also been great rewards such as total reliance upon God as we continue to pray for a job for my husband.

Matthew 6:25- 34 has long been a favorite passage of mine and now I get the joy of practicing it. :) Life is about much more than what you have, it's about who you are, first and foremost before God.

Financially speaking, we are at a perilous juncture, but  I am continually reminded of Philippians 4:11 where Paul  states "....I have learned  in  whatever situation I am to be content." I can honestly say that I've not been consumed with worry about our future. I can assure you- it's only by the grace of God that I can say that.  I've no clue where our future may lead, and I haven't really worried about it. I choose to trust in Him. 

I have all I need for today and faith requires that I need not concern myself past that.

*Title quote courtesy of  Eden Foods, Inc. from "Clean Eating" magazine.

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