Friday, September 21, 2007

Truth and Love

I got up this morning thinking of Truth. I suppose it popped into my mind because I’ve been trying to live a life of truth.

For me, Truth involves so many aspects of life: how we live, how we speak, what we allow ourselves to listen to, what the facts of life really are, whether or not we believe what others tell us, whether or not we ourselves are believed when we speak, our boldness when we speak what we believe.

Two incidents came to my mind this morning. I remembered them without pain. A good thing because back in the day when these events occurred I was so annoyed I grieved and moaned about the “fact” that black women are not “believed” when we spoke. Perhaps the intervening years have healed my heart.

The first incident involved my hateful mother-in-law. I can say “hateful mother-in-law” because she was hateful and still continues to be so. In this first instance, we were discussing a nephew of hers who had recently visited our east coast home. He had told us all about his studies in the paranormal. When my mother-in-law asked us what was happening in the life of this nephew whom she had not seen, I told her he had been studying the paranormal. My mother-in-law jumped down my throat – okay, not literally, but you know what I mean– and snapped, “No, he’s not studying the paranormal.” I stared at her, surprised and shocked. Of course her nephew had been studying the paranormal. He had spent his entire visit with us talking about how he was learning to encounter and measure the paranormal. But my mother-in-law didn’t like me. And whatever I was going to say was going to be challenged.

This is a bit like the sin of iniquity where we don’t hate a sin because it is a sin but because of who is doing the sin. I, for instance, seem to have no problem with my female friends committing adultery but when their husbands do it, I get seriously steamed. Well, this seems to have been what was going on with my mother-in-law. Her dislikes for blacks was so strong that anything a black person said was not going to be believed…simply because a black person said it. This refusal to accept the truth because someone one hates has spoken it is such a part of human nature that even the Bible talks about it. In order to contradict me, my mother-in-law had made herself omniscient. Obviously she was hovering around in the invisible realm watching the conversation between her nephew and us even while she was in California. Worse yet, she was arrogant to tell me what I “hadn’t heard.” Because in her mind, Black women simply were not to be trusted.

The next incident I’ve already mentioned in this column so forgive me if I refer to it again. This one involved Dr. Cowan, the developmental specialist who –when I said, “As a child I heard my mute son talk and shout for Daddy three times”– simply retorted, “No you didn’t.” Why did he do that? Obviously, he also was omniscient and arrogant enough to declare what I had or had not heard. I’m not sure if this was a race issue, a sex issue, or just an arrogant doctor issue but later when I met my son’s wonderful allergist Dr Joseph Wojcik I realized how much Dr Cowan could have helped me and how many tests he could have ordered for my son if he had decided to believe me about my son and to widen his own horizons a bit.

Yes, part of this notion of truth is about the willingness to widen one’s horizon and to admit that one does not know all there is to know. But the other part is about anger, arrogance, and yes, racism and sexism. About how we love our neighbors, in short. Racism often involves hatred. And sexism often involves power issues. Some people like to think that they can be racist and sexist without being hateful. But that is rarely true. Oftentimes there is so much hate going on in the mind of someone who “loves his race” or who thinks “well, women have their place and men have theirs” that any kind of logical conversation goes out the window. I’ve also encountered that kind of hatefulness with atheists also.

I try to live a life of truth so much so that I try to not exaggerate. I try to say only what needs to be said without going over the top. This is not to say I’m Ms Truthful. I am often wimpy and lacking in boldness when it comes to giving my opinion, speaking up as a believer in the Bible, or hurting anyone’s feelings. While I don’t exactly lie, I am such a master of ambiguity and equivocation. Lately, I do think this is a bit of falseness that should leave my life. I often feel God’s Holy Spirit trying to get me to live a more honest life…even with annoying friends who call me when I truly don’t want to speak to them. I’m pretty careful with people’s feelings though, and I doubt I’ll do what many so-called virtuous people do: use my spiritual resolution as an excuse to hammer people. I’m just not like that. Brutal frankness is just another kind of bullying as far as I’m concerned.

But in most areas I am aiming for truth. This means I will try to listen to the point of view of my son’s ignorant friends. This means that I tend to avoid American news programs because as a writer I cannot deal with the way they use sound bytes, word-games, and “spin” to manipulate the American people. This means I will continue to complain loudly about commercials for over-the-count medicine because those commercials always teach us to cover symptoms and not to get to the root of whatever medical problem the product is supposed to be curing.

When Jesus stood bleeding, flailed and powerless before him, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus didn’t answer. He had already told His disciples that He Himself was truth. We don’t know how Pilate meant his question. Did he ask it sarcastically? Did he ask it from an honest heart? Did he ask it like a philosopher, someone who asks deep questions only as a mental exercise and a game but not as a way of trying to figure out how to live.

Either way, I do think we should ask what truth is. And if we discover some small or great truth, I think we ought to live by it. Love and Truth. Truth and Love. And, frankly, if we Americans truly believed that all men are created equal by their Creator, we would be a lot more respectful toward each other. Obviously, this is a truth we only give “lip service” to. And merely giving “lip service” is an excuse for not giving “heart service.”

In many of the letters recorded in the Bible, St Paul asked those he wrote to to pray that he be bold in living the truth and declaring the good news of Christ. That’s what I want to be: bold and truthful. In all aspects of my life.

Truth, which the world cannot receive. John 14:17

What is Truth? John 18:38

Dear Lord, let me abide in your word and let your word abide in me, that I may know the truth, that the truth can set me free. Amen.
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