They Just Act Like Him

When YouTube views go up, so does my mail.  My TEDxMileHigh talk has been getting around 10,000 to 15,000 views a day over the past couple of weeks, which doubles the amount of correspondence I receive.  Every single day I hear from people from all over the globe.  Some days I hear from three or four.  Lately I have been hearing from 10 to 15.

I never look at YouTube comments.  Too many trolls live there.  I do occasionally check the YouTube thumbs up/down ratio.  It runs consistently over 90 percent positive.  Emails, Facebook messages, and other forms of correspondence run about 80 percent positive and 20 percent negative.

Almost all of the negative messages come from conservative Christians.  In fact, I do not remember the last negative message I received that did not come from a conservative Christian.  What do the negative messages say?

Well, let’s suppose someone just arrived on the planet, and had never heard about Jesus, or his followers.  Let’s say all she would know about Jesus would have to be taken from the correspondence I receive. What would she think?

Here is the very first line of an email I received Sunday morning:  “How do you work around that God said He created male and female?”   I never answer those kinds of emails, and rarely read past the first sentence.  As soon as the tone is clear, I hit the delete button.  The messages usually include the same elements:

  1. God created only two genders, male and female. It says so in Genesis.
  2. You are a tool of Satan.
  3. Repent before you spend eternity in hell.

If the messages are from people who once knew me, or knew of me, they usually say,

  1. You were a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
  2. How can you live with yourself?
  3. Repent before you spend eternity in hell.

These are the negative messages I receive, time and again.  So back to that person who just arrived on the planet.  Based on these messages, what would she think of followers of Jesus?  First, I imagine she would think these people are really afraid of hell, since they never fail to mention it.

Second, she would wonder where in the world the sheep/wolf thing originated.  (I mean, really?  Why do people always choose that metaphor?  Is there a fill in the blank “suggested letter” they are all using they found somewhere on the Internet?)

Third, she would check out the Internet and discover there are not just two genders. There are, in fact, a plethora of intersex conditions, which would cause her to assume these people are not well read. Based on the correspondence, I doubt she would have much interest in following Jesus.

Now, let me share with you the contents of another message I received the same morning:

Dear Paula,

I’m writing you from (city) in Germany.  I just saw your TED talk and it was amazing.  It brought me to tears and touched my heart.

I have two daughters and my youngest, (name of child), has been “different” from the start.  From the beginning I had a gut feeling that told me that she is transgender.  And, with all the worries and anxiety I have, knowing how intolerant our world can be, I am blessed to have her.  Because I realize how much I love her, how much I love my children.  And I know for sure that as their mother, I love them and accept them as they are and want to be.  I acknowledge and respect the journey they have chosen to pursue in this life.

Paula, I thank you for your authenticity and your courage.  It empowers and supports me for the challenges to come.  I know that the heart and love is the most powerful force in the universe.  I am grateful for the experience and the opportunity to grow that I have, thanks to my children and especially thanks to (name of child.) 

I wish all the best.  Please continue your work and I hope you enjoy your life as it is.

With all the support and warm regards from Germany,

(first name) 

First of all, that is better grammar than I get from most Americans.  (I receive messages from all over Europe with that kind of command of the English language.) But look at the tone of the letter.  That is the tone of four out of every five messages I receive.  Rarely do the messages ever reference Jesus.  They just act like him.

Letters like that are why I continue to write and speak and preach.  They make me believe in the human capacity for goodness and grace and love.  They communicate the good news of the Gospel, whether or not the person writing the words claims to be a follower of Jesus.  That is the source of my hope that all things are being redeemed.

And maybe, some day, the conservative Christians will stop being afraid of hell long enough to realize that God’s love even encompasses them, just as they are.

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A Time For Lament

Some times call for lament.  It is not something I do easily.  As a dutiful Sunday school student, I memorized the names of all the books of the Old Testament, including Lamentations, though I was clueless about the subject, or even what the word meant.  (The word means the passionate expression of grief or sorrow.)

I’ve never seen the word “lamentations” in a newspaper article or a contemporary novel.  Americans don’t talk much about lament.  I spent most of the last eight days in lament.  I cancelled everything I could, and holed up alone in the foothills of the Rockies.

When I was a male, I dealt with difficulties and setbacks by ramping up my busyness. Speed was my hedge against lament. I became crazy busy.  That is what I did when I was avoiding coming out as transgender.  It didn’t work so well then, but nevertheless, it is my default avoidance mechanism.  I choose the word “mechanism” with intent.  When I resort to busyness and speed, I am attempting to engineer results instead of trusting the flow. It is not a good life plan.

When you run yourself ragged by engineering results, you do not pay close enough attention to the needs of those around you.  Over the past week, I did not hold space for the feelings of one close friend, and I marched right over the expressed thoughts of another.  That stopped me in my tracks, rather literally, and ushered in an exhausting week of lament.  The lament took hold in a number of different spaces within my heart.  One area of my lamentations is private.  The others I can and will share.

I always acknowledge that my experience is my experience.  I cannot speak for anyone else.  I write often about living in a liminal space, somewhere between male and female, holding in tension the two genders within.  Recently I have been lamenting that part of the female experience I will never know, particularly the experience of growing a child within your womb and everything that relates to that holy experience.

Since the She Is Called Conference in May, I have been lamenting my inability to enter into the sacred circular I observe among women.  I reside in its borderlands, close enough to intuit something holy, but far enough away to realize I will never know what I cannot know. Women have been helping one another give birth since the beginning of time.  It is the foundation of their collaborative intuition.  So much female energy springs forth from that seminal experience.  I stand back and observe in awe.

The loss of testosterone and addition of estrogen affects the body in innumerable ways, including ample neurological changes.  Women understand the effects of estrogen.  Add to that the degree to which my brain was never at peace in a male body, and you are left with a transgender woman with a plethora of complex feelings.  Sometimes they pile up, like laundry, and you have to sort them before you throw them in the wash.  This has been a time of sorting.

I rue the days when in fear I refuse to trust the flow of my feelings and return to the old discomfort of engineering results.  In those moments I do not hold space for all the things being born in my heart.  In my time of lament, I listen to the flow of my heart, both its male and female parts.  I weep from the insights and wisdom that come bubbling up, out of the pain, as precious as the Holy Grail.

I am grateful I am not alone.  I am blessed with a precious few who walk ever so faithfully by my side.  With speaking offers and requests for book proposals and the like, the world wants to hear what I have to say from my home in the borderlands of gender.  I am an inadequate messenger.  I miss stuff, and sometimes the stuff I miss is pretty effing important.  I need help from those who are gracious and patient enough to nudge me back onto the path every now and again.  This learning to live as a female is serious business.

And so I grieve and lament, grateful that I dared to choose the road less traveled by,  with its fallen branches and stones and all. Like I said in my TEDx talk, “Would I do it all again?  Of course I would!  Because the call toward authenticity is sacred.  It is holy.  And it is for the greater good.”

Is She Going to Make It?

This week I’ve invited Jennifer Jepsen, my co-pastor at Left Hand Church, to write a guest blog.  You can follow her at http://jenniferjepsen.org

Is She Going to Make It

“The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.”
Audre Lorde

So far I’ve preached nine sermons. Each one is a birth – the preparation a labor, the delivery a relief. I preached this past spring on the relationship between Mary and Martha, and how as a Christian woman I’ve been coached over the years to believe that being a Mary is the Christian woman’s ideal, our gold standard. It is very confusing to me, as someone who carries significant parts of both Mary and Martha that Jesus would appear to rebuke Martha, while uplifting Mary. Wasn’t Martha just doing what she was supposed to do as an obedient women in the patriarchal culture of the day? I too can sit at Jesus’s feet, but I also know the importance of being productive, while respecting the tick-tock of the clock. As a mother with three children, pastoring a church, there are things to accomplish and gazing at Jesus all day wouldn’t fly well with my family and co-pastors.

The premise I offer is Jesus, in touting Mary’s dedication, is instead upending the patriarchal expectations of the day and inviting Martha to be with him. Jesus is inviting her into a relationship of restoration and renewal, of respect and inclusion. Jesus is calling to her toward rest – a luxury, I suspect.

We women still function within this patriarchal model. We rank ourselves in a room based on our bodies and accomplishments, our clean and wonderful children, the lines on our face, and grey in our hair. We participate in gossip to equalize the room, while injuring ourselves with fear of saying too much and doubt in our abilities. We try to play the patriarchal game too, but since our power is minimal in the world of men, we operate out of shame. We operate out of scarcity. We operate out of self-deprecating humor and downright anger.

And as I navigate this new world of pastor, the world of men is real. Many church systems have been built on the metrics of men – numbers, quality control, timeliness, etc. Churches, on the outside, are efficient, tidy, and things get done. Programs are built, meetings are had, people are processed in the name of Jesus. All contributing to the bottom line and to the good of the organization. If a church is growing, it must be healthy right?

The Church is equal parts She and He, and yet we function in this masculine-centric hierarchy oftentimes no different than any other system or corporation in America. And I wonder, is She going to make it? Is the Church going to come through this crisis of culture?

Only if we can return to our feminine roots – to the Church as a redeemed Martha.

I am now in the company of many remarkable and accomplished and talented women who adore Jesus. All would qualify as both Mary and Martha, the best of both. These women are building and leading and pastoring and mothering, redefining the hope of the Church, redefining the hope of the world. We are redefining the metrics, seeking abundance, setting aside the tapes of scarcity that speak messages of our worth being defined by appearance and accomplishment and age. Our worth is defined because we are.

Abundance is untrustworthy and suspicious. We are conditioned to believe there must be be winners and losers. Abundance is a new and unwieldy language that supersedes metrics. With no rank or hierarchy, abundance declares there’s enough with plenty of room at the table. But as women, as the Church, we have to reclaim abundance. The metrics of rank have no place in this space, it’s too beautiful and open. We cannot translate the patriarchal game of ranking and measuring, a foreign language of gibberish. Playing the game kills our souls and reduces our offering. This feminine work cannot entirely be computed or grasped, measurable data cannot define. This feminine work is ethereal and spiritual and air and light, weighty and fierce in the best of ways. Abundance is mother. Abundance is tender. Abundance is fierce. And abundance is an all-encompassing force of Love.

The shameful messages of scarcity in this patriarchal church culture are real and pervasive. And the She of the Church is suffering. She is withering under the current weight of the game. She won’t hold much longer. She can no longer compete over who has the best fashion or the cleanest children or masculine metrics. She must unleash and become Herself. She must know what it means to sit longingly at Jesus’s feet, while knowing her worth and value are in being, while affirming the beings of everyone else. She cares not for the accomplishments and the efficiency. She cares for the whole of people, the healing of the world.

She is a Mother.

For All That Shall Be…

There is never a point at which you find your “authentic self.”  If authenticity is a destination, then you get there when you die.  I have little interest in the destination of authenticity, but I am committed to the journey.

I have recently been settling into myself in a way that feels more and more comfortable. This body is my body, and it feels like I’ve had it forever.  It is a good feeling, and this week, a helpful feeling.  When your soul is all stirred up, It is good to feel at home in your body.

Last week several people heard me mentioned in the credits of the NPR Radiolab series, Gonads.  Those who receive the Radiolab newsletter also found a paragraph devoted to me and my TEDxMileHigh talk.

I did a two and a half hour interview with Radiolab that was not used for the series.  I thought it was the best interview I have ever done.  Molly Webster knows how to ask the right questions.  They did not share their reason for not using the interview.  I have no plans to ask, but I do have my suspicions.  They have a lot more to do with me than with Rachael Cusick or Molly Webster at Radiolab.

I thought the series on human reproduction and development was brilliant.  It included amazing scientific information on a plethora of issues related to human reproduction.  I particularly enjoyed the segments on how our bodies become gendered, and what it means to be intersex.

As I said, I do have my suspicions about why they chose not to use my interview.  It was not because the interview was lousy.  I know when I’ve blown an interview and I did not blow the interview.  It was something else.  And again, my thoughts are mine and mine alone.  They say more about me than about the folks at Radiolab.

I think the science related to the cause of gender dysphoria is a lot less definable, and therefore a lot less compelling, than the science behind the other subjects profiled in the series.  When it comes to the reason we are transgender, we just don’t know what we don’t know.

There are indications the cause is prenatal, and indications it is genetic, but the studies have been too small to be definitive.  I do not want to write about causes of gender dysphoria.  I want to write about how it feels to have such a difficult diagnosis when we do not know where it comes from, where it resides in the body, or what brought it about.

Last week I was talking with two good friends who are gay.  Both said if they could go back and change their sexual identity, they would not do so.  There might have been a time in their adolescence they would have thought about it, but not in their adult lives.  I do not share their feelings.

I would love it if I could have avoided putting my family through the hell they have experienced. I know they prefer the current reality to me being dead, but really?  Those are the only options?  In my case, I’m afraid they were.

The pain I feel about the grief I have caused waxes and wanes.  No one in my family holds it over me.  To the contrary, they have been wonderfully supportive.  The pain is more internal.  Seems to me it’s not okay for one person’s authentic living to negatively affect another person’s authentic living.

If I controlled the universe, I would have made sure I was born a female.  If the only option was to have been born a male, then I would made myself comfortable in that body.  Heaven knows I tried for enough decades.

But I do not control the universe, so I must play the hand I have been dealt.  I play it with as much integrity as I can muster, and occasionally I become angry that we don’t even know the bleeping reason I am this way.

My son Jonathan and I are working on a presentation we will do together in a significant venue later in the fall.  We’ll be able to tell you about it next month.  But the first draft of our talk is due next Monday, so I’ve been working on it at the same time I have been writing this blog.

For the talk we are giving, we are using portions of his upcoming book, She’s My Dad.  The book is raw, and beautiful, and redemptive, and effing hard for me to read. But here’s the thing.  Most suffering does not have a clear cause.  It just is.  No one did anything wrong.  No one is at fault.  We are so focused on assigning blame in our culture that we forget most suffering is existential, and existential suffering must be born with a measure of grace.

I will never know the reason I am transgender, and I will never fully understand why my family has to suffer so.  It is what it is.  But I do try to proceed with a measure of grace, and on my better days I can repeat the words Dag Hammarskjold penned shortly before his death:

“For all that has been, thanks.  For all that shall be, yes.”

 

Three Revelations

In the early morning hours the bedroom in which I sleep is bathed in light as the sun peeks over Indian Mountain.  I reach for the drawer of the bedside table and grope for the eyeshade that might afford another hour’s sleep.  I’m always amazed how much light can sneak through the cracks in closed blinds.  It doesn’t take a lot of light to dispel darkness.  The light always wins.

Since I transitioned, the light has been bright.  The number and scope of discoveries I have made is beyond anything I had envisioned.

I knew I would be rejected by my religious heritage, though I was not aware how complete it would be.  I knew there would be some loss of privilege, and fewer job opportunities.  Back then, all of the coming disruption was seen through a glass darkly.  In the light of day, it has been disturbingly enlightening.  It is always disarming when light dispels darkness.

The single most difficult reality is how my transition affected my family.  But I don’t get to write about that.  They do.  My son’s book, She’s My Dad, will be published by Westminster John Knox this coming November.  I wrote a few thousand words for the book, but it is Jonathan’s memoir, and it is raw and beautiful.

The second most disturbing reality is how I have been treated by evangelicalism.  But I knew that would not go well.  Last year I was one of eight or nine people interviewed for a booklet published this month by the Human Rights Campaign entitled Coming Home to Evangelicalism and to Self.   https://www.hrc.org/resources/coming-home-to-evangelicalism-and-to-self   It is the last in a series the HRC has been publishing about religion and the LGBTQ community.

I had forgotten I was interviewed, but when the booklet came out, the evangelical world made sure I was reminded of my part in it. With news releases and nasty emails, they continued their campaign of bigotry.  I have become accustomed to the vilification.  I expect it.  But I was not expecting the third most disturbing discovery of transitioning.

I had no idea how privileged I was.  I am pleased beyond measure that my TEDxMileHigh talk passed one million views last week, because I have a lot of work to do.  I had no shortage of illustrative material for the talk, because virtually every single day I am confronted with misogynistic condescension.  Sometimes it is overt and obvious.  More often it is subtle and difficult to articulate.

I was recently at a Modern Market restaurant in Colorado with my former wife and granddaughters.  The lack of communication from the inadequately educated workers was a problem as they started to give one granddaughter food to which she is very allergic.  When Cathy and I attempted to speak with the young manager about the problem, it became readily apparent the problem began with the manager.  He spoke over the top of us repeatedly, never listening to a word we said.

I became exasperated and raised my voice, at which point he called me a “hysterical female ” and made additional extremely misogynistic comments. I was livid and did not back down.  In the first year after transitioning, I was always stunned and rendered speechless when I was treated so disrespectfully.  Not anymore.

Almost as frustrating are those times when the misogyny is subtle.  When I arrived at my hotel in Asheville last week, I was given a room bordering a busy interstate highway.  I went to the front desk and said, “I’m surprised you would put a Lifetime Platinum member in a room you know is noisy,” and asked to be moved. The male at the desk said, “Some Platinum members prefer the highway side.”  That is the kind of subtle misogyny to which I have grown accustomed, a male not wanting to be called out by a female.

The truth is that when I was a man I never had a hotel desk clerk ever suggest Platinum members would prefer the noisier side of a hotel.  It would have been absurd to suggest such a thing.  There would have been a quick apology, accompanied by a comment about someone else having blocked off the rooms without paying attention to the elite status of guests.  I know, because it happened fairly often.  I let the hotel comment slide, because the desk clerk was otherwise respectful.

The misogyny is troubling enough.  But here is what is more troubling:  While I know I was never like the restaurant manager, I wonder how many times I behaved like the hotel desk clerk?  How many times did I use an implausible explanation to a woman because, as a male, I did not want to lose face?

I’d better live a long time, because I have a lot for which I need to make up.

Once Upon a Time

I have had most of my granddaughters with me for the better part of three weeks and paradoxically, I feel both tired and younger.  The days I have had all five (all between the ages of 7 and 10) I am definitely tired. But their wide-eyed expectation keeps me going from early in the morning until they are tucked in at night.

I tell the girls a bedtime story every evening.  I have no idea what story I am going to tell until seconds before I begin. It usually involves young girls on an adventure not exactly endorsed by their parents, but one that ends with children or animals being saved from peril.

I’ve known pastors who spend no more than one hour in sermon preparation.  They think it does not show.  It does.  But the pastor is so engaged trying to pull together cogently connected paragraphs that the sermon seems better than it actually is.  The pastor’s brain is working hard.  Not so the audience.

There are a lot of reasons creating a sermon on the fly is a bad idea.  Foremost among them is the difficulty of pulling together didactic information without forethought.  Telling a story is different.

We are narrative-based creatures.  We do not sleep without dreaming, and we do not dream in mathematical equations.  We dream in stories.  Our need for story is downright physiological.  Therefore, our brains are wired for stories.  That is one of the reasons I prefer narrative preaching.  Everyone loves a good story.

Good stories always have the same wonderful elements.  There is a protagonist who wants something with which the audience can identify.  There is an antagonist who wants to stop her.  Suspense builds to a dread/hope axis.  The audience dreads one outcome and hopes for another.  A good story always makes sure the audience gets what it wants, but not in the way it expects it.  The element of surprise is the icing.

I have a friend who once considered investing in a Broadway musical about a traveling executioner. I had a hard time imagining a story with an executioner as the protagonist.  So did audiences.  The show flopped.  You should be suspicious of a playwright who ignores conventional narrative wisdom.  We want our heroes to be flawed, but we want our stories to be redemptive.

There is another interesting truth about humans and stories.  We want the hero to behave better than we are likely to behave in real life.  There was one day in the last couple of weeks in which one particular granddaughter had difficulty with the truth.  As a grandparent, I do not believe it is my job to be the moral police; parents get to do that.  But I do need to keep the peace.  She showed little contrition.  She just wanted what she wanted and was willing to be untruthful to get it.

However, when story time came she desperately wanted the hero to make the right decision and tell the truth.  It seemed rather ironic.  Filmmakers know the audience is always moral.  In their real lives the viewer may have just embezzled massive sums from their employer, but when they show up at the movies they want the hero to make the right decision.  We are an endlessly fascinating species.

Since the girls were staying for a longer period, this summer’s stories turned into the bedtime equivalent of a ten-episode summer cable series.  That allowed me to create a story arc with a fair amount of complexity.  After I finished each evening, I was more eager than the girls to find out what was going to happen next.

Bedtime stories take on a life of their own.  You do not always control the outcome.  I cared about the characters I had created.  Would they find redemption?  Would the hero do the right thing?  A lot was at stake, especially the sweet dreams of five little girls.  I needed to get it right.

I always left each episode with a cliffhanger.  There would be collective groans, “Please GramPaula, tell us what happens next!”  “Ah, but you must wait,” I said.  I had ulterior motives.  It is easier to get five little ones to bed when they know the answer to a cliffhanger will be revealed as soon as they get under the covers.

This current series ended with everyone safe, but forever changed.  That felt about right.  Isn’t that about all any of us can hope for?

The New York girls left early this morning.  All five granddaughters will be asleep in their own beds tonight.  I will be sitting in my living room missing them monumentally.  To take my mind off the loneliness I will watch one of those summer cable series, hoping the protagonist makes the right decision and the writers and show runners are smart enough to know to give the audience what they want, but not in the way they expect it.

And so it goes.

The Camera Always Lies

I read the New York Times and Washington Post every day.  I do not watch “reality” television.  It is hard enough trying to discern what is true and what is not true without the carefully constructed fantasy world of “reality” TV .

Back in the 1970s British broadcasting legend Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Not only can the camera lie.  The camera always lies.”  He was not talking about the current world in which you can photoshop just about anything.  He was talking about a simpler time when the picture taken was the picture seen.  But even then, Muggeridge rightly understood that pictures do not necessarily tell the truth.

The common notion is that if you have seen something with your own eyes, it must be true.  But in reality, it is not that simple.  Consider the two photographs above.  The photo on the left would make one think it was taken outside a prison camp.  On the other hand, the photo on the right looks like it was taken from a vacation home in the Rockies.

Both photos were actually taken from the exact same spot in my side yard.  In the first the camera is pointed southeast and in the second it is pointed to the southwest.  Either picture, taken alone, does not present the whole story.  But if your brain sees only one of the pictures, it assumes the picture it has seen is true.

A second Muggeridge phrase was, “The editor is king.”  When I was an adoption caseworker back in the 80s, an international adoption issue necessitated doing interviews on CNN and the local television stations in New York City.  After the first interview was edited to give a completely inaccurate impression, I realized I should only do live interviews.  On videotape it was far too easy for the editor to tell the story she wanted to tell, instead of the story that actually took place.

When Donald Trump decided to run for president I was confident America was smarter than to elect a reality television star.  Didn’t people understand reality television has little to do with reality? Didn’t they understand that the editor determines exactly what they do and do not see?  Apparently not.

Mark Burnett, the creator of The Apprentice, made Donald Trump president.  Burnett has been selling fantasy to Americans since he started Survivor in 2000.  He is the one who made Trump a star, not by telling the truth, but by making the viewing public believe what Mark Burnett wanted them to believe about Donald Trump.  By the time he was done with his editing magic, Trump looked like a competent CEO and people believed the lie they had been fed.  After all, it was right there on the screen.

Print journalism is a better vehicle for truth telling.  Words are not as easily manipulated as images.  But even with print journalism, the editor still reigns.  The information you read is only as accurate as the editor makes it.  Last year there were two stories written about me in the Denver Post and the New York Times.  The Denver Post is owned by a hedge fund that keeps squeezing profits by cutting back on reporters and editorial staff.  Their 800 word article had eight errors of fact, two of which significantly altered the story.

The New York Times, which has added reporters and editors to its newsroom since the 2016 election, had a 4,000 word article with zero mistakes, not one.  Not all news outlets are created equal.

The Denver Post wants to get it right, but their owners make accurate reporting almost impossible.  But at least the reporters and editorial staff who remain at the Denver Post want to get it right.  When Fox News, Breitbart News, InfoWars and the London Daily Mail reported a very inaccurate story that involved a university in Pennsylvania and my TEDxMileHigh video, not one of those companies bothered to even attempt to contact me to verify their information.  Not one.  They did not care about the truth.  Period.

I want to get my news from people who care about the truth.  I want to get my information from people who are trying to get it right, even if their companies are owned by jerks.  I do not want to get my information from sleazy media outlets that only care about profits and do not care one iota about what is true and what is not true.

It is possible to tell which news outlets work hard to get it right.  You can start by seeing if your preferred newspaper has a “correction” section that appears in every edition and, when necessary, shows corrections at the bottom of any article in which they’ve gotten even one detail wrong.  If your favorite media outlet does not publish corrections, you need to find a new media outlet.

The truth matters.  It always has and always will.  If Malcolm Muggeridge was concerned about the objectivity of undoctored images, how much more concerned would he be with the mayhem we see today, particularly in the electronic media?  These are trying times, and we must not give up the conviction that the truth is ascertainable and will set us free.