I’m constantly on a quest for the truth. Every truth-claim I hear or read, regardless of the source, I investigate until I come to a personal judgment of whether it is based in fact or fiction. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a politician, a journalist, my pastor or the guy working out next to me at the gym – I have to know if they know what they’re talking about. As Monk constantly reminded the San Francisco TV detectives he worked with, “It’s a blessing and it’s a curse.” On more than one occasion I’ve been called a loose cannon – for once I lock-in on the truth, it bounces around on the deck of my head until it eventually breaks out through my lips. For I have an incessant need to inform others of the truth. And this personality trait of mine seems to upset a lot of people.
I upset my conservative friends when I remind them that our capitalistic system was founded by financiers without patriotism and, in many cases, without decency, for their sole object was gain; or that God’s command to Adam to have dominion over the earth did not imply we were given free reign to use pesticides and weed-killers. I upset my liberal friends when I counter their fears of the impending destruction of the planet with facts, such as when the Arctic sea ice recently hit the “normal” line per Aqua satellite measurement for the AMSRE dataset, or when the people of Kaktovik, Alaska, a small town located above the Arctic Circle, were overrun last year by record numbers of polar bears. I even upset my politically and socially moderate friends when I make statements like, “compromise is the virtue of the man with no convictions,” and back it up with both secular and Biblical references.
As I’m “unfriended” on social media, or am left to watch a friend’s sullen look and occasionally their back as they stomp away angry, I sometimes find myself questioning, “Is Truth overrated?” But then I remember the words of my Savior, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” I’m no Christ – but I try my best to be Christ-like. So in my search for Truth, I also pray for more tact. I’m afraid I have no choice but to continue to relate Truth as God reveals it to me, through His Word or through the sweat of my brow as I diligently investigate the theories propagated by people of all persuasions and research the evidence or lack thereof for each. I’m the first to acknowledge that my method of communicating Truth with compassion and respect can use refinement.
There will always be a certain subset of the population who see all truth as relative and who will respond like Pilate to Jesus with “What is truth?” especially when faced with the claim that a man born 2000 years ago “came into the world to bear witness to the truth and that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice.” Those you cannot hold a logical discussion with, except to remind them that their denial of any absolute truth becomes itself a denial of even their denial. But I’m convinced that most people want to know the truth – even as they tremble at what it might mean to their present belief system and lifestyle.
I recently read a secular article entitled “Why do we fear the truth?” by Robert J. Burrowes. While Burrowes’ belief system is based on naturalism, I found the following points worth sharing.
“The most important impediment to understanding and resolving any problem or conflict is our fear of knowing the truth. We spend a lot of our time trying to deal with problems and conflicts by deluding ourselves about the cause and/or the solution necessary… we want to reserve the right to use violence to control or ‘discipline’ our children; we want to pretend that our unhealthy diet is not the cause of our ill-health if we like eating all of those unhealthy foods; we want to be able to consume more than we really need and pretend that the ongoing destruction of the natural environment … are unrelated to our own behavior; and/or we want to buy those cheap consumer goods made by exploited workers (and sometimes even child labor) in those factories in Africa, Asia and Central/South America where the largest corporations are less encumbered by such considerations as a requirement to pay fair wages and taxes, to address health and safety concerns, and to consider other human rights and environmental issues. And we want to blame other people for our conflicts if looking ourselves deeply in the mirror might tell us something about ourselves that we don’t want to know. But if we want to deal adequately with any problem or conflict, first of all we need to be courageous enough to acknowledge the truth, including any truth about ourselves.”
Winston Churchill understood this human frailty as much as anyone in his day. For in referring to his political adversary Stanley Baldwin (Prime Minister 1935 – 37), he once said: “Occasionally he stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.” This quote was later adopted by some large publications as applicable to mankind in general, because it is only natural to retreat from an advocate of a position contrary to one’s own, especially one long held though not securely founded on reason.
Even some large religious organizations (such as the JWs) which instruct their members to lead inquisitions against all other people’s belief systems supposedly in the name of truth, themselves fear in-depth inquiries into their own organizational structure and core doctrines. So claiming truth they retreat from Truth.
Yet it God’s economy, truthfulness is a requisite for advancement. When Moses was encouraged to delegate some of his duties of judging the millions of people he led, he was given the following guidelines: “Select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.”
Too often on public and social media I’ve caught the “well-intentioned” altering scientific and technical data or misrepresenting factual circumstances or mischaracterizing expert opinions and historical documents in misguided attempts to influence the less informed to support their cause. Belief in a cause, no matter how good is never a valid excuse for deception or error. All too many people are like sheep and will follow a false shepherd. So I’ve made it my personal mission to reach out to both the sheep and the shepherd – with the hope of helping each find the true path.
Truth is never overrated. Sometimes it may make me feel uncomfortable. But always it will point to the Way that is right and beneficial. While some will ignore it to their personal detriment, Truth will always win out in the end.