08 August 2008

speak the truth!

During the last two weeks of July, we were visited by our nephew Kaleb. One day we were watching the movie Justice League: The New Frontier (2008). We were commenting on which of the heroes we liked better. I said I always preferred Batman over Superman. I also noted Wonder Woman’s lasso, which forces anyone she ensnares with it to speak the truth. What a cool power to have! Just lasso somebody, and they have to tell the truth.

The current issue of The Christian Century deals with something like that. In Andrew Root’s, “If the truth were told,” he looks at the Fox TV show The Moment of Truth (in which people speak of very personal and inappropriate topics) and applies the question Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked over six decades ago: “What Does ‘Telling the Truth’ Mean?” His article inspired me to get Bonhoeffer’s Ethics off my shelf (that’s the book in which his unfinished essay with that question appears).

According to our friend Dietrich, who was executed by the Nazis, telling the truth is not about adherence to some abstract principle. Truth is incarnate; we speak the truth when we use it for the healing of relationships, when we speak the truth “in love.” That’s not the same thing as saying that the truth doesn’t exist!

Bonhoeffer warns us, “It is only the cynic who claims ‘to speak the truth’ at all times and in all places to all [people] in the same way, but who, in fact, displays nothing but a lifeless image of the truth. He [or she] dons the halo of the fanatical devotee of truth who can make no allowance for human weaknesses, but in fact is destroying the living truth among [us].”

Too much of what passes for truth today isn’t meant to heal; it’s meant to destroy. Because of that, we allow the various issues on which we’re divided to tear us apart. The world desperately needs us to demonstrate truly Christian ways of disagreeing! (I wonder, would Wonder Woman’s lasso be of help in that?)

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