The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; so help me God!
In every Courtroom in America is Bible! We come before the judge and swear an oath about truth that unless one knows how to practice the art of truthfulness; this becomes a mere affidavit of non-manipulation. Without truthfulness we simply become honest liars. Without truthfulness education becomes a competition of information validated by standardized tests; instead of demonstrations that verify ability. This lack of truthfulness desecrates nearly every American endeavor, music becomes trite, love becomes pornographic and relationships become cycles of abuse. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent a lifetime insisting on the importance of truth; recognized that the responsibility of truthfulness is not equal for every person, that the more power one has in relation to another affects their burden of truthfulness. In his epic work; Ethics Bonhoeffer argues as follows
This is true because of the child’s dependence on the parents for their sense of personhood! This why we do not put small children on the witness stand as it would be a violation of their persons to do so. When parents engage in self- serving or Narcissistic patterns of behavior they absorb the child’s growing personhood into the deficiencies of the parents ego squelching their sense of self. This turns parenting on its head by taking life instead of developing it. The results are generations of anguish. As it says in the Bible Deuteronomy 5:9 “You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.”
This is part of the prohibition against idol worship in Mosaic Law, because falsehood corrupts. Even the ancients could see the generational damage done when we turn our backs on truth God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth! This is essential to Christian ethics for the image of man is a reflection of God, and therefore without truth there is no humanity! Therefore to face the truth and to be examined truthfully are essential human rights! Any church or civic institution trusted with the guardianship of humanity must be truthful or it is working against the best interests of people. It is the responsibility of all those involved to steward those institutions truthfully or else public corruption will ensue and people will suffer. People with the littlest voices that can’t be heard on their own are the ones who suffer most when citizens fail to be truthful.
Bonhoeffer was right in his insistence on the virtue and necessity of truth and the 20th century shows that. In his speech to a youth league conference in 1932; Bonhoeffer chided them for neglecting Theology in favor of practice; putting fellowship over fidelity. This makes truth a reflection of association not verification of wellbeing or peace. When we make this choice it inevitably comes down to us or them. Because if we have the truth that must mean someone else does not. Therefore the subtle temptation arises to silence the “other” in some way.
In modernism the question was “What is truth? “And the lack of a satisfaction led to Authoritarianism. Their post-modern grandchildren replied “What does it matter anyway if everyone seems to be having a good time”. This has led to personal experience over civic duty and consumption over compassion. This is the falsehood of sheer individualism that says that as long as we can procure enough to be selfish all is well. It is lack of authentic other to verify our purpose; that has led to the loneliness of our day and age. It is why we take so many selfies! To verify to ourselves we still exist because all many have; is a cast of selected characters to pose with. Not a village of members who belong!
For this is where Bonhoeffer failed! He insisted on truths importance but did not satisfy modernisms question and left the post-modern grandchildren in the dark! Truth is one of the essential natures to God and a cornerstone of our human existence. It is the duty of each generation to protect this by being truthful witnesses to the human experience; preserving the rights of their society and lifting up the common good of all. So in order for us to be people to have rights; we must be truthful! This gives purpose to each and every human life as this binds the human race in common cause of human community.
So what does it mean to be truthful? The answer to this question is in the very first chapter of the Bible where God takes the time to create a beautiful world and, creates humans as a reflection of him. Adam inspired by Gods decree against loneliness examines all creation but does not discover himself until he meets his counterpart. The human truth here is that we cannot be ourselves by ourselves for with no one to verify our purpose we suffer in agony cut off from our own existence. So to be truthful is to be human and to stand in solidarity with God.
In the Gospels Jesus teaches us that God is love. He instructs us to love our neighbor as ourselves and goes so far as to tell us to love our enemies, and do good to those who act spitefully against us! Jesus taught that this is the way, truth and life! The truth of loving our enemies is insisting on their human right of truthfulness and it be verified objectively and not reduced to figments of our pain or averice. The truth about human behavior is that it is a reflection of each individuals experience and sorrow and not a definition me.
Understanding this allows one to accept that that anger is an absurd construct; the projection of fear and pain. The remedy for which is divine fellowship not a firearm. Pain requires healing not inflicting suffering on others. For our pain is ours regardless of where we try and put it. Thomas Jay Oord the author of God Can’t advances the idea that Love is an essential Quality of God and so God always acts in the best interest of everyone, that nothing is controlled and we are a necessary partner in God’s love to us. So to be a faithful partner we must focused on the best interest of all those around us. So to be a truthful is to love even one’s enemy by speaking truthfully about them and to them.
So to love others one must be truthful and this means that we are inspired to explore every possibility and objectively verify outcomes that are beneficial for all. This three step practice of inspiration, discovery and experience are the necessary requirements to speak truthfully and knowledge enables us to do that well. This is why the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. The lack of it leads to the reduction of truth by limiting discovery to social or self-expression thereby diminishing human rights. Therefore anything that does not include faithful adherence to these three principles in its search for truth is a desecration of humanity.
In a land that cherishes liberty and justice for all such cannot be obtained without truthfulness. No truth no justice, no rights. This is why even the worst criminals have rights before the law. For even the personhood of offenders is necessary for the humanity of us all. Those who insist on the pretention of entitled falsehood desecrate both public and private affairs with fear and darkness. These offenders undermine justice and deny others liberty and reduce their own humanity.
On this hangs the duty and irrevocable responsibility to truthfulness especially by those with power over others for theirs is the duty of preserving the sustainability of civilization itself for the benefit of all. One of my favorite quotes by Bonhoeffer is “Justice is caring for those who cannot care for themselves” and when we insist that that all be treated truthfully equal justice becomes a reality.
Sadly this is not the case in America; especially in North Carolina in our churches and family court systems. This is because it is choked by false witnesses and fear mongering. Both the pulpit and courts have powerful people who foolishly and selfishly insist that a multitude of conjecture or a quagmire of process can create truth because it makes them necessary and rich. Their illicit trade in public anxiety insist that adding numbers to liars makes truth it does not; it makes one a student of Joseph Goebbels and opens the door to fascism and fear. These malicious actors jeopardize the very personhood of the vulnerable with insistance that lies told louder or more persistently will rescue us from peril. It will not
For when two liars are gathered together in the name of their cause it creates a plot, and handful a conspiracy. When a crowd embraces falsehood it becomes lynch mob, a city becomes corrupt a state becomes Jim Crow and nation becomes ripe for a Furher. No amount of falsehood can over power truthfulness and for this reason the honest law abiding citizen must be secure in his personhood. Falsehoods has corrupted our courts into insisting on procedure over people and if complexity prevents one from enjoying their rights then the rights of all are in peril and for sale. If rights are for sale then so are people! For this reason public defenders and process facilitators need to replace clerks and lawyers in the family courts. The ambition and averice of the economically capable are squelching the personhood of tiny little people, giving precious personalities and their poor fathers the George Floyd putting knee of corruption on their tiny little necks.
The same is true of North Carolina pulpits where fashionable vignettes of moral therapeutic self help are served up every Sunday with heaping helpings of soothing, self-centered Jesus and Me dirges that make deficient people comfortable in their dereliction of fidelity. This profanes the grace of God and perverts public worship into ritualized intellectual indecency. This puts the spiritually and emotionally vulnerable and desperately lonely with the knee of ignorance on the necks of their soul. This perversion of truth into belief in beliefs is nothing but a religious adventure in selfishness. It robs Churches of their useful purpose in advocating for the marginalized whoever they may be and provide the community required to actualize their human self. For this reason Principles should replace pastors and nurses replace youth directors so that knowledge may be obtained, wisdom demonstrated, and solidarity with suffering restored.
When we learn the art of truthfulness and accept our divine responsibility as truthful witnesses; we empower ourselves to restore good and decent institutions like our courts and churches to be engines of restoration and purveyors of peace. When we practice truthfulness we love our God, neighbor and self as one’s self and even extend the grace of god to the brigand who defies the public good. Truthfulness enlightens us to the authenticity of others and reinforces the individual self. It is for this reason that sacrifice for others is the best investment one can make for themselves securing personhood for all and for posterity. By restoring truthfulness to its rightful place we enable ourselves to speak the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth; discovering that God has been helping all along!