There Are Many Ways to Tell The Truth

I am a huge fan of This American Life. Their story-based journalism is so rich, so true, so deeply human that on any given Monday (when the new podcast drops) I will listen on the commute to or from work and will regularly be moved from raucous laughter (alone…in my car…really) to tears as they offer up these incredible slivers of light into what it means to be human.

This week’s podcast is a recording of a live show they recently did at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Opera House, and while I’d commend the whole show (audio and, this week, video!), it’s really just one of the opening lines from host and producer Ira Glass that I want to share. After setting an opera singer’s story of being trapped in a closet for 22 minutes into a minimalist opera, Ira says that this week’s show will take their usual journalistic stories and tell them in a variety of ways – opera, Broadway musical, radio drama, comedic monologue – because, as he says, “there are so many ways to tell a true story.”

When Ira said that I immediately thought about the Bible. (Yes, I know, I’m probably the only one of the tens of thousands of folks who listened to the episode who thought that, but this is what I do for a living. 🙂 ) Here’s the thing: folks get so incredibly hung up on the fact that the Bible offers different versions of the same story – Did the disciples fall asleep three times (Mark and Matthew) or only once (Luke)? Is the day Jesus died Passover (Mark, Matthew, Luke) or the day before Passover (John)? Some folks conclude from these apparent discrepancies that the Bible is unreliable. After all, if it’s not verifiably factual, how can it be true. Others contend that because they know it’s true, there must be some way to reconcile these discrepancies – that is, that they aren’t really discrepancies.

All of this arises from a post-Enlightenment identification between truth and facts. But the fact of the matter – so to speak – is that such discrepancies were of little concern to those who wrote and read the Bible for most of the first 18 centuries of Christianity’s 20-century history. Because they knew, as does Ira Glass, that there are so many ways to tell a true story.

So if you have a long drive coming up, feel free to download the podcast (or listen to it below), or if you want to see the video, you can do so at their website. And as you listen to these funny, crazy, creative, and true stories, think about the Bible, which is chock full of examples of the many, many ways to tell a true story.