Sunday, March 18, 2007

Can You Handle the Truth?

In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Cor. 13:1).

-- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, April 18, 2005
Homily at the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff

In Christ, love and truth coincide. We have engaged in a comprehensive discussion regarding "love," so we now proceed to the question of "truth" -- Quid est veritas?

Statement of the Problem

Truth. At first it seems to be a fairly straightforward proposition. But as Pilate’s question demonstrates, there are some who wonder exactly what “truth” is, and some even question the very existence of truth. Throughout history, but especially in modern times, the concept of truth has been met with suspicion and even opposition. Many simply refuse to consider or address the question of truth, while others consider “truth” to be something that can be molded to obtain some objective. For example, pointing out the truth of the sinfulness of a given activity is considered judgmental and uncharitable, asking about the truth of various cultures is considered rude and unacceptable, and insisting that there is One True Faith is deemed to be offensive and exclusionary. In Islam, Allah is held to be so all-powerful that he is not even bound by truth and reason. In certain political systems, disinformation is practiced, and historical and other “truth” is subject to change and revision, like Orwell's 1984 or Animal Farm. Likewise in the law, the truth of the humanity of the unborn child is alterable upon the will of the woman carrying such child, and consideration of the truth of whether the universe might have been created is prohibited in public schools. If an advocate does not like the truth as it exists, then the truth is simply changed by a manipulation of language and redefinition of words, such as changing the meaning of the word “marriage” or even the meaning of the word “is.” Truth may seem to be a simple question, but the truth of the truth is frequently denied. That is, much of the modern world can't handle the truth.

As a consequence, our ability to see and know what truth is has been corrupted and distorted, so that even those who have a good faith desire to know and live the truth often times are instead living a perversion of the truth. We think that what is a lie is the truth, and what is the truth is a lie. Even when, deep down in our gut, we know that something isn't quite right, we still cling to the lie, thinking it is the truth, indeed, wanting it to be the truth.

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