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Ode to Cecil: Truth is Like a Lion

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The Confessions of St. Augustine (Week 11 of 15)

Why is it, then, that “truth begets hatred?”  Why is your man who preaches truth to men become an enemy in their eyes, even though there is love for the happy life, which is naught else but joy in the truth?  Can such things be except because truth is loved in such wise that men who love some other object want what they love to be the truth, and because they do not want to be deceived, they refuse to be convinced that they have been deceived?  Therefore, they hate the truth for the sake of that very thing which they have loved instead of the truth.  They love the truth because it brings light to them; they hate the truth for the sake of that very thing which they have loved instead of the truth.  They love the truth because it brings light to them; they hate it in as much as it reproves them.  Because they do not wish to be deceived but wish to deceive, they love it when it shows itself to them, and they hate it when it shows them to themselves.  – The Confessions of Saint Augustine (Book 10: Chapter 23)

As I write this post, the Senate has just announced the defeat of a major bill to defund Planned Parenthood – a measure that was introduced in response to a series of videos released by the Center for Medical Progress.  While many activists made sure to call or email their congressmen urging them to vote in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, the defeat of the bill should come as no surprise to those who pay attention to the mainstream media.

In the last four weeks a total of four horrific videos have been released depicting the blasé and dismissive attitudes with which Planned Parenthood executives discuss the slaughter and dissection of innocent children for profit – even quibbling over prospective fees and emphasizing the need for a unified front on the part of Planned Parenthood executives nationwide, lest these covert activities be questioned.

Each week, a new video has surfaced portraying the abhorrent practices of Planned Parenthood – a fact that should have helped this story gain progressive momentum in the press.  Instead, it has been reported that the entire story has received less than 12 minutes of total coverage among the three major news outlets (ABC, NBC & CBS).

By contrast, in the four days following its initial release, the Story of Cecil the Lion being unfairly lured from his reserve and killed, beheaded and skinned by a Minnesota dentist was covered on the three major news networks a total of more than 30 minutes.

At first, I was aghast at the disparate coverage.  While I certainly don’t condone the ill-treatment of animals, I felt that Cecil’s tragic end, together with all the tears of support for the demise of a beloved lion,  provided a horrific juxtaposition with the Planned Parenthood story, considering how little the major media have been willing to cover it.  It seemed to me a glaring snapshot of the depth to which America has sunk with respect to its denial of the Truth.

But after reading Augustine this week, I realize that lack of coverage for the story [as well as the outpouring of support among pro-abortion and Planned Parenthood supporters in light of these despicable revelations] is not entirely malicious.  The response is perhaps not so much a lack of humanity, but rather it is a formidable defense mechanism, founded on pride, that ultimately results in the endorsement of inhumanity.  It might sound like I'm parsing words, but I'm not.  There is a difference between knowing the truth but turning away, and defending a lie because we refuse to admit we've been deceived.  Those who continue to support Planned Parenthood are turning away from truth in effort to avoid acknowledging the lie.  In his keen understanding of the sinner, Augustine lays it out in black and white:

because they do not want to be deceived, they refuse to be convinced that they have been deceived.  

Sadly, over time, the truth has been denounced while the lies have only multiplied.  Lie upon lie has been defended, perpetuated and passed down because supporters have attached a piece of themselves to the lie:

…they hate the truth for the sake of that very thing which they have loved instead of the truth.

Worst of all,

Because they do not wish to be deceived but wish to deceive, they love it when it shows itself to them, and they hate it when it shows them to themselves.

Until they can step back and look at themselves, they will continue to sacrifice the truth for the lie.

Perhaps in his Omnipotence, God has brought Cecil’s story to the world’s attention to make this point.  For the juxtaposition of these two stories at this time is a grand illustration for all of us.  What is Cecil's death, but a powerful symbol of the martyrdom of Truth, and the abandonment of God – Who IS Truth – in today’s America?

Before you accuse me of taking a huge leap, remember that the lion is rich in symbolism.

First, the lion is the king of all beasts.  In Sacred Scripture, Jesus is portrayed as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up.  He stooped down, he crouched as a lion, and as a lioness; who dares rouse him up?  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. – Genesis 49:9-11

The lion also has it’s paws in the Resurrection story, so to speak.  According to an ancient bestiary tradition popular in the Middle Ages, lion cubs were born dead and protected by their mother for three days until their father came forward to breathe life into them.  Clearly a symbol of the death and Resurrection of Christ.

Perhaps that tradition was a source of inspiration for C.S. Lewis.  For anyone who has read the beloved Narnia series knows that Aslan, the great lion, is a symbol for Christ.  In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Aslan allows himself to be sacrificed by the White Witch; but in three days, he returns from the grave full of power and vivacity, forever proclaiming victory over sin and death.

Which brings us back to the powerful image of Cecil.  An innocent lion who had done no wrong, lured out into the open through deceitful means  and insidious methods to be thoughtlessly, yet ruthlessly slaughtered.

How can it be that so many who mourn Cecil's death – particularly those in the media – turn their backs on the millions of babies sacrificed in tax-payer-funded clinics throughout the country?  The irony is that as they rally around Cecil, justly deploring the ill-treatment of a lion, they unknowingly stand with us as we mourn the death of Truth.

Augustine, a great defender and proclaimer of truth (even more so for having lived so many years chasing lies), assures us that truth will prevail.  All who mourn the death of millions of innocent lambs may take comfort.  For, as paraphrased by Pastor Chuck Spurgeon:

Truth is like a lion.  You don’t have to defend it.  Let it loose.  It will defend itself.

Our country is truly suffering from a perpetual denial of Truth, to the extent that in many circles it has been sacrificed altogether.  But rest assured.  The Resurrection will come.  Truth will reign victorious in the end.

Reading Assignment:

Book 11

Discussion Questions:

1. Is there anything that surprises you in the above quote from The Confessions?  Take some prayer time this week to examine your own belief system.  Ask yourself whether there are any areas in your life – great or small –  that are suffering because you refuse to face the truth.  Ask God to open both your heart and your eyes.

2. Feel free to comment on anything from the above or from any portion of the assignment this week!

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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