What is truth? I was asked this the other day and it made me think more deeply about what I believe is the essence of faith, the essence of meaning, the essence of what makes this life worth living. At the core I feel truth is a transformation of the self and the community from self and kin to other. That transformation fascinates me, I feel called to be involved in it, and I am compelled to connect with others who do this Ministry. With the human experience being so diverse, so many contexts in place, there certainly cannot be one way to make this transformation work. I know two things; that there are many ways to make that truth come to be and that not of these ways lead to the same truth.
The latter affirmation betrays my inner conservative nature. This reference of conservative has nothing to do a particular area of ideology or theology. On almost all of these I would be considered quite left-leaning. But the conservative in me is the instinct to understand that not all things are possible, that choices are necessary and that some degree of definition is important. I remember sitting on a committee trying to find wording on offering support to gay and lesbian peoples (this came well before we included transgendered people in that grouping). Someone said we ought to say, “We support persons no matter what type of sexuality they practice.” There were lots of heads nodding but I knew that they did not intend a meaning that someone outside our group could infer from that sentence. I pointed out that “no matter what type of sexuality” would include lots of practices many on our committee could not support and I named them. So even when we want to broaden the circle, open ourselves to new people and new experience we do need to name what we include and what we do not include.
So coming back to “truth” I feel it important to say that calling something “truth” which for me more closely resembles selfishness than empathy and compassion and self-giving love cannot stand. I would need to challenge that label. I have trouble with some forms of the New Age movement where I feel the emphasis is so much on self that the other is either an afterthought or non-existent. So while I would affirm that the same transformative experience that I live for in Christianity can and does happen with people of other faiths and no faith I don’t believe that any belief system that claims to be transformative is transforming people into the kind of loving neighbour I would hold as normative for the human experience.
I am passionate about the Jesus story, the Christian faith, and the discipleship of the Spirit. It is how I navigate my life. But I recognize that others find other faith experience more transformative, that those other stories and beliefs take them to full human compassion in a more compelling way than the Christian one. I am fine with that. Frankly speaking, the Christian religion has a lot of baggage and blood on its hands with regard to its treatment of women, gays, lesbian, people of non-European backgrounds, the planet, persons enslaved, that it would be hard to expect some people to look past that and enter into the beauty and joy of following the one I call Saviour. I think Pope Francis gets this, which is why he is calling the Church to humility, that the truth cannot be named and claimed without at the same time being honest how the Church has used this claim to hurt so many people.
I believe the truth is revealed in Jesus the Christ who lived and died and lives again. I believe that God breathed life into all Creation and set us on a path to purpose and joy and discipline. I believe in a covenant of life between me and God and community. I call myself a Christian not because I live my journey well but because I aim to live that life with Jesus as my north star. But in all of this I know that in the name of truth my fellow Christians have committed countless acts of horror and atrocities. So before I point my finger at someone or some group I think are living apart from that truth I need to look in the mirror first. I see truth lived out every day, in Christians, in people of other and no faiths, and I give thanks for this. They teach me. What the early church named as agape self-giving love for me is the truth and I seek to live that and be touched by that with each and every day.