There's a lot going around now about the truth. Perhaps, because it's election season folks feel compelled to find the truth. Commercials, news stories, civic leaders all promising to tell us the truth. Heck, even us religious folks weigh in on this elusive and supposedly apparent quality of the good life.
But is the search for truth all that useful? Well, it depends. If we are talking about facts such as the number of working poor in our community, then yes. But if we are seeking an absolute moral truth about God's favor or disfavor of the working poor, then I would say no. If we are searching for the cure to a disease, then yes. But if we are seeking a moral reason why people have that disease, then no. If we are seeking facts about our neighbor's religious practices, then yes. But if we are seeking to prove our neighbor's beliefs about a higher power to be good or bad, then no. Here's why:
In searching for THE TRUTH we narrow our scope. We tend to ignore paradox, mystery, and diversity. If there is one answer, then suddenly we have no use for pluralism and the diversity of human experience, which are, as near as I can tell, qualities of reality. We live in a diverse, multifaceted, pluralistic world. And persons who would try to eradicate such diversity largely become proponents of violence in one form or another.
But, can you not lay claim to THE TRUTH and still live a moral life? Sure. We've done it for ages in democratic societies. I can believe in one god. You can believe in no god. Our neighbor can believe in many gods. And we can still eat at the same table agreeing on moral principles apart from religious beliefs. This isn't new. We've lived this way for centuries. Even the Roman Empire recognized some pluralism. Shouldn't we be able to do better in the 21st century? I hope so.
But the current veracity of morally dualistic thinking would seem to suggest otherwise. We are constantly choosing between what is presented as "right and wrong." In this framework, we become morally constricted. Creative problem solving and moral reflection is deadened. This is a frightening trend in a contemporary world so desperately in need of thoughtful, expansive moral reasoning.
In the words of Holly Near,
Rise up to your higher power
Free up from fear, it will devour you
Watch out for the ego of the hour
The ones who say they know it
Are the ones who will impose it on you.
The "it" in this case would be THE TRUTH; absolute, unchanging, invisible and imposable. I am not saying we shouldn't stop believing and speaking from our truths (notice small t ) but that this endless goose chase for THE TRUTH tends to divide, harm and devour.
We recognize this as Unitarian Universalists when we affirm in our principles, "the right of conscience and the use of democratic process." It's not just about voting for our Board, calling our ministers, or holding annual meetings like General Assembly. The democratic process is also about a spiritual yearning for pluralism and a religious belief that without such diversity, we would be morally impoverished.
So, please, let's stop slinging THE TRUTH at each other because it really only distracts us from sitting together at the table. This is the only way we can possibly begin the ministry of alleviating the world's suffering and bringing about a compassionate, equitable and just world.