Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Will We Ever Again Agree --- On Anything?
“You’ve told lies.”
“No, you’ve told lies.”
“You aren’t even aware that you’ve told lies.”
“You don’t even know what a lie is.”
“Yeh, well, your mother wears army boots.”
Playground taunts? Don’t we wish. Those are words we hear every day from our “esteemed” politicians, the wise men we elected to lead us (well, perhaps not those last words). The situation seems worse than it ever has been. To some degree, it feels like the blind are leading the blind.
I liked this quote from Kenneth Minogue in his book, The Servile Mind:
“Much of taxation redistributes wealth to the needy and the incompetent, something that, in earlier times, the rich (intermittently) did themselves. Governments feel that they will make a better fist at helping the poor if they take into their own hands the power to supply charity to those in need.
The inescapable conclusion is that the rulers of democratic states judge the populations of democratic states to be incompetent over a whole range of important matters – yet these are the very people who are charged by the constitution with deciding who should have the power to rule them. The paradox arises because the foolish are deciding who the wise are.”
How did we ever get into such a situation? Will we ever again agree --- on anything?
I’ve formed my own conclusions and answers to those questions, and they give me a degree of peace – and hope. I share them here.
To me, the basic problem which started our downfall is the seemingly simple question: What is truth? Philosophers have been asking that question from time immemorial, and one man (Pilate) even asked it of God. During the self-proclaimed Enlightenment Period of Man, many philosophers were emphatic: man can never know truth. He is of weak mind and his thoughts are swayed by his experiences and bias, and each man’s truth is different from the next. No man can ever agree with another what is absolute truth. Therefore, all truth is relative to the person proclaiming it; each has his own truth, and no one else can deny it.
But this is not what the Catholic Church, nor most other Christian churches, teach.
Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light.” There is an absolute truth --- but can man know it? The Church would agree with the relativists in that no man can know Truth --- not entirely in this earthly life. However, God has revealed Himself throughout history, as documented in the Scriptures and by many who heard and saw Him. There is much about Truth we can know, and it is not relative to individuals perceiving it. It is Truth.
If all truths were truly relative, and as many say: “There is no absolute truth,” then of course this is a lie. For they state, with the absolute certainty of truth, that there is no truth. At best, they are confused. No, if all truth were relative and acceptable, then I could kill your children if I thought it right, and you could rape my wife. You could elect a government leader, while I could shoot him. You could choose to work hard and achieve what you desire, and I could steal it from you. And each of us could think that is the right thing to do, the relative truth. And society would be chaos. And the biggest idiots would reign.
No, there are recognized truths, even among those who say they are relativists. In the United States, the Constitution starts out by stating and accepting this fact: “We hold these truths to be self-evident …” And the Constitution mentions God. In the thousands of books I have read, particularly in the past twenty-five years, I have come to believe that the starting point for the downfall in this country was: we stopped mentioning God. Adam and Eve may have stated man’s downfall when they thought they could know as much as God, know the Truth totally, but only in more recent times has man disregarded God. In effect man now states: “I won’t debate whether I know as much as God, but with our scientific advances I know as much as man can know. And I am here on earth, and God is not. And this is what I know: the truth.” And if I am in power, in the government, in cities, in schools, or in churches, I will teach MY truth. And that is what many men do. And they get more believers in their ideology every day.
And what of the churches? A huge (but decreasing rapidly) portion of Americans state that they are Christians, but … they define for themselves what a Christian is or should be. So one says a good Christian is this, and another says a good Christian is that. The Catholic Church, in particular, is easy to denounce and demonize, since it has someone in authority saying what a good Christian is --- someone who says what is Truth, as far as man can know it. “How dare you tell me what is truth,” they say. “I KNOW what your church should say is truth.” And in many churches, chaos reigns, and the most charismatic of the speakers leads the flock --- astray.
What to do? This thinking that has evolved over hundreds of years, and crept into our churches and schools over decades, so how do we begin to change it? Whether Christian or not, will men ever agree again? I read some words this morning which triggered all these thoughts of which I’ve been writing. They were from the second letter of the apostle Peter:
We possess the prophetic message (Scripture) as something altogether reliable. Keep your attention closely fixed on it, as you would on a lamp shining in a dark place until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Pt 1:19
The pope has called for a New Evangelization, starting with ourselves. We should make sure we know and are anchored in our faith, not wavering ourselves by “what WE know is wrong with the Church.” St. Peter says the way we should begin to anchor ourselves is by keeping our attention focused on Scripture, the words of God, even as we would focus on a lamp shining in the darkness. Until the streaks of dawn appears in our hearts --- and we really begin to see the Truth. And there is nothing relative about it at all. And when St. Peter says: “WE possess the prophetic message,” he is referring to the Church, not as a bunch of individuals, but as the Body of Christ, growing together in the Truth.
Will we ever agree again? We can start by agreeing on what the Church and Scripture teaches. And if you are one of those who might say: “But they are fools!” I would ask you to read again the line about how His Words would never pass away. I would ask you to read of the thousands of saints and wise men, men certainly holier and wiser than me, who teach His Truth. And then would you still say: “These tens and hundreds of thousands who proclaim Him and in many cases died for Him are all fools! Only I know the truth?” And if you could make such a statement, could you stand in front of the mirror and still state: “Only I know the truth.” And then could you stand in front of God and state: “Only I know the truth?”And who would be the fool?