Friday, November 11, 2011

The Problem with Photoshop - Truth

"No Parking" by skrotmumrik      

You are a truth-filled God, you define truth.
-- Andy Fritchey

Have you ever printed photos from the corner drugstore?
Or course you have, Facebook and Flickr have not completely revolutionized the way we share pictures, have they?
My father takes birthday and anniversary pictures for chapel every month, edits them, and sends them to the corner drugstore for printing. I had to pick up the Church pictures one day because my father could not do so on his own for one reason or another, and it turned out to be the experience of a lifetime. It shook me to the core.
My girlfriend and I went to the one-hour photo place a couple hours after my father submitted his pictures. A Chinese man sat behind the counter looking busy, so I interrupted his meditation and informed him that we were there to pick up my father’s prints and I gave him my dad’s name.

         These pictures look very good, he said, giving me a strange look.
         Thanks, I responded unsuspectingly.
         These look professional, he continued.
If there is one pitfall that I always get trapped in, it is this: I assume that everyone shares my sense of humor. (Note to self: learn that not everyone shares my twisted perspective.)

Oh yeah, I sarcastically responded, these pictures are professionally shot. I chuckled, assuming that my suave charm had done it’s magic and we could proceed to payment so I could move on with my life.
    You can’t have prints. The photo clerk insisted, No professional prints, copyright.
It dawned on me that the man was not complimenting my dad’s photography skills. He really thought that I stole  professional, copyrighted material from someone else and that I was trying to get cheap prints of them.

I think there’s some kind of misunderstanding here, I reasoned, you see, these are my dad’s--
            No, no. You are trying to trick me. He continued, You are very tricky.
By that point I had heated up, No sir, you are mistaken. I was just kidding. My dad takes these pictures for church. He always sends them here to get prints.
           You a liar! He screamed at me over an outstretched index finder. You a liar.
Luckily, my girlfriend was able to smooth things out somewhat with the man and we ended up leaving with the prints and a few more insults. But what struck me was the emphasis he placed on his three-word condemnation: You a liar!
I have never been called a liar (to my face) in all my life. Much less in my adult life. But it did not hurt so much that he thought I was lying or that I was capable of lying. Everyone is prone to deception, whether from a deceived mentality or a more decrepit motive. What really hurt was the fact that he made a moral judgement of my character. What he was saying was I, by nature, am characterized by lies.

There is something juvenile in the phrase: You a liar. It’s filthy playground language. But do we not use that language every day?

    Please verify that...
    Where did you hear that, FOX News?...
    Never trust a politician...
    Who is your mechanic...

And on it goes. Sometimes we have a founded quest for truth. We do not want to go through life in naivete. But sometimes it’s not so founded.
Take Wikipedia for example. It is notoriously used in academic circles as a poster child for checking sources, with the idea that Wikipedia is a bad place to go to for information. However, studies have found that Wikipedia performs almost as well as the Encyclopedia Brittanica (Rubin, 245). (Plenty of other academic institutions have concluded that Wikipedia is actually not the Encyclopedic Antichrist.) One can consider Wikipedia to be accurate about 95% of the time due to extensive cross referencing.
I would suggest that 95% correct is pretty good. If I played 95% of the notes in a song right every time, I would be happy with my performance. A 95% career free-throw shooter would hold the NBA record. 95% is still an A in school, even with the strictest grading policy.  If I said the right things 95% of the time, I get in approximately 60% less trouble. OK, now I’m throwing figures around, but you get the point. 95% is not bad.
But that leaves room for 5% error.
A 5% chance of being 100% wrong.
This brings me to Titus.
Right off the bat, Paul, apostle, author of the letter to Titus, acknowledges in the first verse of the first chapter both godly truth and the fact that God cannot lie. This, my friend, is chiasmus, the repetition of a point for emphasis. Paul is saying, Know this, God is not a liar.
God does not “kid around.” God does not distort the truth to make a sarcastic point. God is unable to be anything but completely honest and straightforward. He is not going to trick you, it would simply be out of character for Him to be anything but sincere.
That being established, Paul contrasts this with true statements of men.
...there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, (1:10)
            ...the Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true.  (1:12,13)
            ...Jewish fables, and commandments of men, ...turn from the truth. (1:14)

Paul paints a deceitful picture of mankind here. The only wonder in my anecdote is that I am not accused of lying every time I turn around! Even religious truth and morality corrodes when it contacts man, sometimes devolving into a veritable pack of lies.
So what is the solution? What should man do when he realizes this condition? Paul says that we need to change.

...older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, (2:3) all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, (2:7)
...and...sound speech that cannot be condemned, (2:8)

You are corrupt. You are deceived, so how can you be anything but deceptive? What we need is a change from within in order to change what comes out. (If that sounds biblical, Jesus said it in Matthew 15:11 & 23:26.)
The orientation of our attitude must turn from self-willed to something that is more others-focused. Lies are nothing more than an attempt to protect myself despite what the consequences mean to others; liars have no integrity.
But we have a problem, we can’t change our own selves. In fact, we are the reason we are in this mess to begin with. Left to our own devices, we deceive one another. It’s no coincidence that Sin entered the world on the backs of half-truths and bold-faced lies.
It is a good thing Titus shows us the solution:

...we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

Most people enjoy looking at old pictures--I consider myself a little strange because sometimes old pictures freak me out, but I am in the minority on this one. Have you ever wondered the following while looking at those pictures?

          If only there was a way remove the acne from my teen-aged face.
          If only I could add more length to those shorts, what was I thinking?
          If only we could remove the evidence that I hung out with that crowd.
          ...that I drank.
          ...that I smoked.
          ...that I ______.

What if I told you it was possible? What if I told you that I could manipulate your photographs and make it seem like you were much better than you really were?
I have friends who can do all that and more. Want to look spiritual? How ‘bout we take a snapshot of you walking on water? Impossible you say? You are wrong. In fact, that’s old hat, we’re on to even greater things with the magic of Photoshop(R).
God uses Spiritual Photoshop(R) in our lives. But instead of cropping and blurring, He uses kindness and love. His toolbox includes grace and mercy. His wand is the Holy Spirit who washes with regeneration and renewal. God produces a picture of our lives that is justified and sanctified.
But there’s just one problem with Photoshop; me. I know those zits existed. I know what style I had. I know who my influences were. I know what things I used to do. They are still with me. They still haunt me to this day.
God does not lie to Himself--that is not even an option. He does not tell Himself that we were never evil. What he does is change who we are at the core level from now on. That way, He can then say we were at one time evil. He can tell Himself, and everyone else, that we are evil no more.
Therefore, God takes the wicked picture we have created in our lives and transforms it into that beautiful thing He intended it to be. He does not simply doctor it up with no real change in character, He truly changes who we are. I think this quote from our Elder, Dan Roberts, says it quite beautifully: “God has not changed, but rather He has changed us so now we can approach and worship Him on His terms.”
My God is full of grace and truth, and He is molding me back into His image.
A liar is what I was because I lied and felt no remorse. But I am a liar no more, because God’s truth has enlightened me. While I may stumble into deception from time to time, deception will never be a character trait assigned to me any longer.
I know that lies are against our character--mine and my God’s.

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Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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