Linda Downing

Where we start leads to where we end

I'll not forget a reader who took umbrage with the regular closing of this column: Finding truth requires the right starting point. He said that to state there is a "right" place to begin seems vain and begs the question: Who do you think you are? A columnist writes an "opinion" piece. Opinions are like weak broth compared to hearty stew if not backed up with details and facts. Opinions without truth are like the fringe element accompanying every peaceful demonstration, the ones throwing rocks and screaming, breaking glass but not changing minds or offering solutions. Today's political climate and culture make cynics of many of us in at least one way: We believe everyone has a hidden agenda. Not believing that anyone could have a pure purpose for the good of all is weakening government, religion, and personal lives. On July 19 The Tampa Tribune ran a letter from Jonathan Coleman of St. Petersburg under the title: "Bible doesn't govern." He was reacting to another letter writer's attempt to use the Bible to oppose same-sex marriage. He wrote that "the Constitution, not the Bible, governs civil rights" in places where citizenship does not depend on religious belief. He is right.
Coleman went wrong when he ventured into remarks about the Bible, a book of which he is obviously ignorant. He said it was "written by Bronze Age flat-earthers" and called it "medieval nonsense." In fact, the Bible Christians use contains Old and New Testaments, books whose authors wrote from about 1,500 years B.C. to the 1st century A.D. Coleman's anger is not really toward the other letter writer, however well or poorly she made her point. He is angry toward the Bible because it does not condone homosexuality. For those who use the Bible as their guide, that point is indisputable no matter how personally pressured by society, those we love, or our own desires, to change it. Christians choose to believe what the Bible says about itself - that it is "given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16) - that it is "the word of truth" (2:15). We struggle to understand it, to agree on its meanings, to live its precepts. That is what we bring to the table even when it comes to civil law. That is what many writers of the U.S. Constitution brought to the creation of that document. This writer's purpose is not hidden. I seek to show Christianity's relevance to today's challenges. The reader may agree or disagree. Regardless, he may glean something helpful, insightful, or stirring from the discourse. It is easy to see that Coleman's starting point is who he believes himself to be. My starting point is the Bible - never mind who I believe myself to be. It is a choice. At the very least, our differences make life interesting. A recent news story says CERN, the world's biggest atom smasher, supports the Big Bang theory. Scientists say that getting down to how one rare subatomic particle decays and what it becomes is "a find that adds certainty to our thinking about how the universe began and keeps running." I rejoice in their findings. As far as I can see, they're finally arriving at where I began a long time ago: "In the beginning God." (Genesis 1:1). And so, once again that leads to my ending. Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side. Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at