In a recent blog posting, I reflected on how important trust is and recommended the benefits of earning and retaining trust, not least as this is often the way we can best benefit the community. Something that relates to trust is truth. If we seek after truth and live accordingly, that is an important way of gaining trust, although I did wryly note at the time that there are those who agree with me on some of the greatest truths (those revealed in the Bible) who I don’t trust because of their past untrustworthy behavior.
The need to seek after truth is something that has been the driving force behind much that I do for many a year. I suppose that has been partly a result of being a natural skeptic and having an inquiring mind and having found many who appeared to be speaking the truth but, on delving deep or in the light of experience, I found they weren’t. Being a Christian in churches holding different views on a plethora of divisive issues has also been a spur to getting to the bottom of this truth business. I recall a few years back when having to choose an email address, I chose “fight4truth” because at that time I felt that was what I was called to do, and I still do! While standing up for truth has sometimes got me into trouble, such as hindering my career advancement, it has not meant I have had to lay down my life, as many a Christian (and not only Christians) has had to do throughout history, and they still do in many countries in the world, irrespective of the lack of reporting of such incidents.
I won’t put myself up as a paragon of virtue, because I ain’t. The people who I admire are those whose grasp of the truth may be limited but they live consistent with what they know. For example, such a person could well have made a promise to love his/her spouse when they married, come what may, and that is what has happened. There are many things about truth I feel people need to be reminded of. I take issue with the notion increasingly accepted by our culture that truth is relative. While how we deal with change will always be a challenge, if something is true in one era it remains true. This is important given that those who do not bend according to society’s dictates may suffer. In a recently reported incident, a baker refused to bake a cake because the message he was asked to put on it was untrue and declined to do so on conscience grounds, and as a result is likely to be prosecuted for disobeying equality laws.
My last blog post was regarding the Palestinian question. It struck me that it could be said that those reporting on what is presently taking place, representing both sides of the argument, may both be telling the truth, at least to a certain extent. A Palestinian perspective may be that the Israelis are using disproportionate force to suppress a community that they have been oppressing for a long time. An Israeli perspective may be that their actions were made in order to curb terrorism and the fact there has been innocent casualties is that is what happens in most conflicts, not helped when the enemy places such in harm’s way. When I challenged one Israeli apologist around the human rights issue often raised, I received a reply “to bless Israel is to be blessed by God as they are his people. If you call yourself a Christian, this will be known to you”. While I am happy to be challenged, it struck me that at the heart of the problem is that one side does not understand the concerns of the other, which have at least some legitimacy. This applies just as much to the Palestinian intent to drive peace loving Israelis into the sea!
On reflection, I thought of two examples when gathering facts one focuses either on one side of an argument or the other, and this is around traditional politics and the prosecutor / defender system in legal trials. I believe a true seeker after truth tries to see both sides of an argument before coming to a view. It is about weighing evidence and seeking balance. One of the many media presentations I have come across recently was from a Jew with Zionist background taking the side of the Palestinian. I was tempted to not watch when he declared it was not going to be a balanced presentation, but given what he shared I am glad I did. It seems to me there are two, and sometimes many more, perspectives in any debate, and that a seeker after truth should make an attempt to understand all these even if beholden to come to a view, maybe siding with one side or the other.
In a day when we are inundated with sound bites in a sea of information and we cannot be fully confident on the impartiality or getting a full and balanced coverage by the media outlets we would naturally gravitate toward, we need to be especially vigilant. For these reasons I balance watching news from the BBC or reading whatever newspaper is at hand from across the range with what I read in Time magazine. I read the concerns and issues raised by the likes of the Christian Institute and Christian Concern with what Pink News has to say and weigh those pointed out to me by my pro-Palestinian Facebook friends with what Israel Today says.
Seeking after truth is a worthwhile lifetime’s activity for any of us to pursue, and applies to all sorts of fields, starting with scientific. Besides the matter of living the truth e.g. what people see in public could be bourne out by what they might see in private, and that starts with my family and those close to me or the disempowered, and that of being a man of my word: i.e. what I say I will do, I deliver on, there is also the issue of balancing truth with love. It was written about one, Jesus of Nazareth, who got that balance completely right, that he was “full of grace and truth” and this we should aspire to be, knowing that truth can hurt and can also alienate those we love. But remember too that it is “the truth that will set us free”.