Truth is not a sport that wins with the score of popularity or power won. In our postmodern world, we can believe what we want. We can pay a company to spin information or post fake news on social media. Consequences do not matter. We are driven to win at any costs. Knowledge used to be equated with power. Today, popularity is power, regardless of facts or truth. A post-truth, post-fact world is one we have embraced. Faith, not always built upon empirically proven facts, causes many to still sacrifice their very lives. The ISIS beheadings of Christians is proof of this. In America, would our form of Christian faith pass the martyrdom test? Would we survive in our current squabbling? When truth impacts issues of life and death, you would think we would carefully examine it and be open to mastering it. The Bible may not be a scientific book, but we observe historically and currently the adherence to it as a matter of life and death. For us in America, faith exists mostly as a matter of post-truth that must fit our desired behaviors.
There are all sorts of truth. There is historical truth, scientific truth, emotional truth and even faith-founded truth. With a new year comes a new challenge. What is truth? And, if we answer that question, will it change our behavior or beliefs? I know that it is true that eating more calories than I burn will make we gain weight. But, I can argue that butter really is healthier than scientists used to say it was. Coffee in one year is published as a health bonus and the next it is labeled as bad for all of us. I choose to believe that coffee is always good! So, I clip that one study that proves my desired behavior and ignores the one that would push me to change. Lucky for me Facebook does this for me automatically. My thinking about truth then is a slave to my habits and comforts. This is the America we all live in and have chosen–a way of life as a sacred cow, regardless of authoritative information. Dialog about the nuances that make up truth requires openness to uncomfortable, competing facts. Will we converse to learn or argue to win?
As a New Year’s resolution, my hope is for a brave seeking of truth. This endeavor includes holding myself and those in power to the facts that are proven and reasonable. It is easy to question facts as a way to deflect a truth that threatens my position–whether of comfort or of power. Will we in America see this deflection and call it out? Will we fight information wars or protect each other for the sake of truth? Truth is what saves us when it comes to faith but also when talking about everything from traffic safety to a nation’s policies on war. It requires a pursuit that transcends winning an argument. Truth is what wins for all of us. The best way we can ring in the New Year is to not defend our comforts but to challenge the strategies and people that would rather win than be truthful. If truth wins, we all win.
Truth cannot win without love, however. Loving our God and our neighbor must be the foundation of all that we feel, believe, and live. We are mistaken if only facts are the tools for our faith and cause. It is one thing to disseminate information about the hunger crisis in our world. It is quite another to emotionally experience the compassion required to prompt action both in yourself as well as in others. Knowledge then is not power, is it? What we feel and do with that knowledge matters more so. In our conversations about truth, if we have contempt for those of differing minds and opinions truth is then silenced. The bull-horn of hardened, proven facts will not sway the hearts of people. The distance from mind to the heart is where only an incarnated truth effectually travels. The way of Christ is to speak the truth in love. This is the only way truth can be delivered and potentially accepted. Facts then are the weapons of our society. Will we use our facts, our Bible, our opinions, to beat people? It doesn’t work.
Beyond the brave seeking of truth, I have to be about the extravagant exposition of my fellow human’s worth! No set of Biblical beliefs, political points, or personal wisdom trumps the value God has on his crowning achievement of creation—people. When we talk about Aleppo or health care or even tax rates, how do we value our fellow image bearers of God in the discourse? When we protest hateful speech, discrimination, or lawlessness how deep is our love for our neighbor in the process? Winning for the Christian looks a bit different. At least, that is the uncomfortable opinion I am holding to at this point in time. I would rather just balk at those who think differently than I do. But, they are my brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, and ones I am called to love—even if they are my enemies. Such is a subversiveness that we are called to live. And, it is one I would rather forget about. Truth is more than what changes my thinking. It changes me—my emotions, my actions, and my heart about people.
Being on the side of truth means more than having all the facts on my side. Usually, most facts are plain to all of us if we were to look for them. Jesus had a very public ministry, and his enemies had to trump up charges after many attempts to twist the facts. Jesus said that those on the side of truth listen to him. This statement prompted Pontus Pilate to ask Jesus “What is truth?” Pilate knew that truth fell deaf on the ears of the mob. We still don’t get it, do we? Are we on the side of truth? Jesus says “I am the truth” in the Gospel of John. We know where the Gospel writer John is going here. Are we like the mob or do we hear the voice of Christ? Jesus did not win the score in popularity points the day of his execution. To choose the side of truth may end up poorly for us, but in the end, it may save many. Are you in?