I’m a terrible typist. I’m old enough to have taken typing class in high school when that kind of thing was taught, but I never thought that I would need to be proficient on a keyboard; so I bowed out. Typing was not in my future. But here I am on a keyboard just about every workday hunting and pecking my way to letters, articles, and sermons. After even the shortest of documents I’m left staring at a screen filled with red-squiggled underlined words. And then I click on spellcheck – the savior of the keyboarding- deficient like me. Magically it corrects all my misspellings. That is for all but one word.
I nearly always mistype the word “the”. I transpose the “h” and the “e” and almost without exception type “teh.” The problem is that somewhere down the line I told my computer that the correct spelling of “the” was indeed “teh”. I must have clicked the wrong option in my spellcheck menu and now the computer thinks “teh” is a legitimate word – even though it isn’t. So, there’s no red-squiggled line underneath “teh”. Spellcheck doesn’t find the error. I have had to go back and search my document for this misspelling and, even worse, have sent out many a document with the incorrect spelling. I told my computer “teh” was the correct spelling and the computer only does what I tell it to.
Yet, saying “teh” is correct doesn’t make it so. No matter how many times I say that “teh” is a real word that doesn’t make it a real word. It’s incorrect in spite of what I say or what my computer thinks. Some things are like that. Some things are right or wrong despite what we say or what we think.
Could what is true for words be true for other things, like morals and ethics? Could it be that we overlook incorrect behavior because we’ve been told it’s not incorrect? Are some things wrong even though someone, or for that matter everyone, says it’s right? Bringing it closer to home, are there things in my life, your life, that we regard as correct that are really wrong? Have we been misinformed? Have we convinced ourselves falsely? Has our spellcheck been messed with?
Bottom line – are things right or wrong because we say so or are things right or wrong because they are right or wrong? The answer to that makes a big difference.
There’s a book in the Old Testament portion of the Bible known as Judges. It tells stories of the tumultuous relationship between the Israelites and God. Often times God’s people find themselves in trouble and then God sends political or military heroes, aka judges, to rescue them. But most importantly, these judges would bring the people back in line with God’s expectations. When the people do what is right, things go well. When they do what is wrong, things go poorly. One of their biggest problems was judging what was right and what was wrong.
The book ends with this somber assessment of that period of Jewish history which gets to the root of the problem: “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” They failed to realize that right is right and wrong is wrong and their thoughts or opinions don’t change that truth. They messed up their spellcheck and their souls no longer recognized evil from good.
That’s a dangerous place to be. But it happens.
It was always embarrassing when I sent out an email or a document with “teh” instead of “the”. Confusing good and evil is much worse than being embarrassed.