The more things change, the more they stay the same

Posted on November 14, 2020


The saying is an old one in French, often quoted by the literati in the original–plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose– to sound more egg heady. So, I thought I would do the same and think for a moment like a literati instead of plain old Larry. Now let’s turn to Scripture and read from one of the Apostle Paul’s letters to his disciple Timothy.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” If this doesn’t sound like today, then you must be on a Captain on the new Space Force’s first trip to Mars. Read on

“They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.” (2 Timothy 3: 1-9)

Wow, now let’s advance the clock a bit. Let’s imagine Paul the Modern Journalist not St. Paul the Apostle instructing his young student Timothy, who enrolled in Paul’s introductory course at the Notre Dame School of Journalism. This was the first lecture. As a freshman, Timothy was properly impressed by the football statuary on the campus, as befitting Notre Dame’s long history of football greatness. There are some really magnificent statues of Moses and Jesus on the campus, labeled irreverently “First Down Moses” and “Touchdown Jesus” because Moses had one arm in the air, and Jesus both arms raised to the sky.

“What to tell the kiddies?” thought Paul as he prepared once again to start his introductory course to journalism. Speak of truth and facts? Orate on the great journalists and newspaper men of the past? Address and explain how the press have historically represented the “Fourth Estate” of government to balance the politicians and judges in the other three “estates:” the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court? “Estates” came from the French division of society into different groups at the end of the eighteenth century which defined the three estates as that of the clergy, the nobility, and the Third Estate as the people. We got rid of the nobility, striped the clergy of their relationship and sometimes control of the government, and elevated the “people” through the Constitution’s divisions and assignment of powers, privileges, and limitations.

As Paul looked ahead at his class—so young and yet already so committed to the irrelevance of religion and the past—Paul remembered that he was the inheritor of a noble tradition.

Paul then read over his letter to his acolyte Timothy. See above. Today are people really as “slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” as they were then? And if they are, how to report this as the truth? Name names? Report the facts?

Maybe he would start with his old standby with his new students. What is truth and what are facts? What’s the difference? What is the responsibility of honest journalists? What is the responsibility of honest preachers and pastors? Sigh.

He started the class by asking everyone to turn off their cell phones and any other devices. In the next hour they will all live in “real” time, not some version corrupted by “virtuality.” Pull the nearly hidden ear plugs out. No cheating. No Bluetooth to subvert the moment.

Then he began, as he invariably did, “your ancestors and mine faced the same issues as we do today, how to deal with truth, reality, and the facts of our lives and culture.” Pause. So, let’s start.

He turned to the student on the left of the front row.

“Your name?”

“Julie Ann.”            

“Well, Julie Ann, nice to have you here. So, how do we define truth.”

She looked astonished, the deer in the headlights, and started to reach for her cell to type in “truth” in her favorite browser. But she couldn’t. No one could.

And Paul the journalist in the twenty-first century, just like Paul the Apostle and Teacher in the first century, was off to the races and on the track of truth. “Let’s talk guys.”

To take Julie Ann off the spotlight, he began by asking her, “what was your favorite course in high school.” She relaxed and began to talk. A beginning.

Posted in: History