Truth is a Trigger

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After reading through Jonah and the Whale, he closes the Bible and gets to the point. It’s about Truth and speaking it Gracefully. Truth in Grace. A subtle unacknowledged shift from Truth in Love and even though it was different, I saw right through it.

 

He’s smiling when he tells us that it’s not the message that must change, Truth can’t change, it’s the poor packaging. We need more bubble wrapped words around our doctrinal beliefs, patterns and bows of Grace.

 

Truth is a trigger word for me. I hear it and my ears fold in on themselves and my mind packs up and travels elsewhere. It isn’t because I love lies and it isn’t because I think truth is relative. I believe that Jesus died and rose again and in some cosmic explosion, obliterated the partition between us. And I don’t believe that there is your truth and my truth. Truth is a river with no offshoots.

 

But sometimes we say it like it’s obvious and within reach. We say it without wincing when we should, oblivious to its’ impact on the audience, pretending it isn’t sunk under heavy sheets of history and interpretation and Life. And, let’s be honest, it is usually said to buffer criticism about something someone has already chosen to believe. It’s God’s Truth but it’s really just what you believe to be God’s truth. Which is fine, as long as you say it like that.

 

He says Truth and then mumbles on about Culture, which to me, through my bruised and burnt out eyes, is like cutting a commercial for Focus on the Family. It’s not, let’s seek the truth together, it’s let’s spread the truth together. Let’s march the truth out there. Let’s try to say it nicely, but WITHOUT COMPROMISE.

 

And I withdraw quickly because Truth has been thrust like a shank in me before.

 

It’s the flag, grenade and mantra of the Christian culture warrior. It is the default delivery during every political season- “Defend the Truth. Speak the Truth. Vote the Truth” And the truth is not that Jesus is Lord and King, it is that God is appalled by Barack Obama, that gays are the end of civilization and liberals are godless atheists. If you unpack it all, that’s the Truth.

 

Turns out, truth is not that narrow of a river. It is not clear and in bullet point form. It is not an ideology or a worldview or one that commits fidelity to a subculture over the hands and feet of the savior.

 

Truth is out there, to be sure, but more often than not, we’re estimating it. We scratch away at it with every question pursued to its’ end. We are surprised by it with every stereotype turned on its head. We step away from what we thought it was when we see how others read the same identical text with such different conclusions.

 

With all these scattered hearts and minds arriving messy in the pews, how can we even begin to talk about pitching Truth to anyone?

 

This word Truth, can make me squirm inside. It implodes every sermon I hear, conversation I take part in and every book I read. When one claims Truth, they lose me instantly. And I know that it’s because of the connection to culture wars, which often, is not what they’re getting at. But still. I feel it every time.

 

And one day, hopefully, it will shed all it’s baggage. It will mean something to me. The sound of it won’t send me running and missing out on the goodness that can come from the other words of others. But, like all my trip ups, this one will probably take time to overcome. A lot of time.

 

So for now. Let’s talk more about seeking the truth. Let’s look at this as an excavation. Let’s leave no stone unturned, no bridge uncrossed and no religion ignored. Let’s inhale every perspective of scripture out there. Let’s remember our history, let’s look to our future, let’s recall how claims of Truth have hurt us before and let us be slower now. Gentler. Humble.

 

“Nobody ever sees truth except in fragments.”

– Henry Ward Beecher

 

RR

  • I have an idea- I wonder if when you heard the word “truth” you replaced it in your mind with the word “Jesus” if it would be less of a trigger for you? And if it would help you filter out the yuck but still keep the good? Just thinking this could be an out of the box way to apply Jesus’ words that He is the truth.

    I think there’s a generational thing that happens with this one. Post-moderns tend to speak in the gray, older folks tend to speak in the black and white. I don’t think they mean it as black and white as it sounds. It’s just a way of talking that has become ingrained, just as speaking in grays has become ingrained for those who are younger. I actually know some liberal Christians who are older who would be inclined to the same kind of matter-of-factness, but have different things behind the words that you would expect.

    Sorry you had this experience. It’s gross when church feels gross.

    • registeredrunaway

      I completely agree. I could try that but the rub is that much of the time when the point is about Truth, it’s usually talked about in reference to Culture, ragging on culture. And Culture has always been much kinder to me than Church. So it’s weird but a part of me gets defensive for everyone else outside of church.

      And the fact that this is a generational thing gives me encouragement AND pause. I don’t want to move into this theology “this is true for you” and “this is true for me”, but I do think Biblical Truth is so much more obscure than we say it is.

      • It’s interesting to see how individuals who declare “Truth as they currently understand it” as “the one ‘true’ Truth” are so enthusiastic in conveying their personal view to everyone they can. Although, this isn’t really a striking feature of any person. It is really one of the main building blocks of Culture: attempting to create community through shared beliefs and/or activities.

        Everyone has a drive to want people to be like them or, more accurately, share in their happiness (“If you’re happy, I’m happy!”) Not because they simply want a bunch of clones, but because—on a purely naturalistic level—it is the safest way to create community without the risk of conflict via diversity. In reality, however, our individually diverse hearts don’t work that way. —It’s also really easy to convince ourselves that this ethnocentric view (that is, convincing everyone of the same personal Truth) is what a “truly unified Church” looks like: the breeder of the “us-vs-them” mentality. Why? Because we, again, truly crave that Kingdom of God-type of community.

        The aching desire to have that sort of perfect Church (right here and now) mixed with our want to not be harmed by divisive conflict causes us to take (what I call) some “intellectual liberties.” So now we have theology (the truth being declared) being inbred with the cultural desire for community yet the speaker is unwilling to call it Culture because that would make their “one ‘true’ Truth” too humanistic to be considered infallible. At that point, the speaker has to decide if he thinks Culture is bad because it is influenced by humans or good because it involved connecting humans.

        I personally (and I’ve met some people who think this immediately makes me a “liberal and/or unorthodox Christian,” I dunno *shrug*) don’t see how people can see Culture as a bad thing for the Church. Merely by the Bible being a Book composed of Words, it is conveying the goodness of learning a system of language which must be understood between many people to share in what is written. The fact it is a Book at all defines a cultural attribute that the Church deems as relevant. You don’t see anyone “reading the Bible” by going outside and cloud-watching for 365 days, do you? And if someone came to a church and said “I learned everything that is within the Bible by jogging from San Francisco to New York,” it is highly likely the listeners would be at loss to what they meant. Unless that jogger saw each and every verse strewn out along their path as they ran or something… And they were able to run in such a way that they could look down and read, and run into any objects.

        I’m not trying to rationalize the ways in which God communicates with the Church, but I think considering these things gives evidence to what I believe is a fact: God gifted us the phenomenon of Culture as a way of connecting with each other and God in a way that isn’t rigid and cold; it is alive and empathetic. Jesus was easily one of the most cultural divisive figures that walked this earth simply by way of being empathetic to who people were *as they were*.

        -mea

        (I really need to getting better at truncating)

  • Wow, great post! I’ve even heard Christians talk about “truth and love” as if they’re opposites and we need to find a good balance somewhere on the spectrum between “truth” and “love.” As if “love” means saying everything is good all the time, and “truth” means telling everyone they’re sinners constantly doing horrible things- and we need to find a balance between “truth” and “love” and not be too far to one extreme or the other. Uhhhhhhh really? Because I have some issues with those definitions of “truth” and “love”… I really don’t think they’re opposites.

    • registeredrunaway

      I want to respond with something equally perfect. But I’m out. Thank you for this! Better said than my own post.

  • Seeking

    Truth is narrow. Just ask Jesus, he tells us it’s straight and narrow. I have the same adverse reaction to the word. For me, I think it’s because the truth is painful. It threatens the way I “want” to live my life.

    “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” prov. 14:12

    “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13a