I am thinking a lot about truth. The most ironic, post-modern question in the scriptures is found in the 18th chapter of the Gospel of John.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
What is truth? Typical for the Gospel of John, the writer creates scenes for Jesus to speak on an “above” level while Jesus’s interlocutors are stuck in the basement. They are concrete, literal thinkers while Jesus is above it all.
So is truth above it all? Is truth only in the realm of the mystical, fancy metaphorical talk of Jesus? Or is truth earthy? Is truth real? Is there such a thing as truth? Is truth a fiction, a fancy, a subjective speculation? Is truth no more than what those who control the means of communication say is truth?
I don’t buy it. Okay, sure, absolute truth will always be ultimately out of reach. The universe is a big place. But there are some things more true than others. One plus one is two, not three. In the world we inhabit, the below world at least, there are some things that are facts and some things that are not. In this below world there are those who control the means of communication and spin it to their advantage. The very fact that happens means that their “truth” can be questioned.
I heard good advice from JoAnn Hardesty when she spoke at Southminster in January. She was asked, “What can white people do to dismantle racism?” She said, “Be critical of the narrative. Don’t trust the narrative. Look deeper. Hear voices that are critical of the narrative.”
She was speaking specifically of the narrative given by the white power structure to explain the racial disparities between white people and people of color, particularly African-Americans. Be critical of the narrative that explains why African-Americans graduate at a far lower rate than their white counterparts and why African-American men are more likely to go to prison than college. While we are at it, let’s talk about the narrative that quickly is created by the Portland police and packaged by the media when a 17 year-old African American child (Quanice Hayes) is shot to death by police.
“Be critical of the narrative,” says JoAnn.
“What is truth?” asks Pilate.
“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” says Jesus.
Do we care? Do we care about truth?
Do we care enough to be critical of the packaged narratives that exonerate white people when human beings, our sisters, brothers, and children suffer?
I refuse to be cynical and post-modern and ironic when it comes to truth.
I think there is such a thing as truth and that saying we cannot uncover it is little more than laziness.
Let’s make 2017 a year to be critical of the narrative.