Can We Handle the Truth?
A fire is burning in me, and I have to say that it’s an angry sort of fire. Outrage. Righteous indignation. Absolute horror and disgust at not only what has surfaced in the news lately, but the response to it by many fellow Christians. In the wake of #metoo confessions and the Weinsteins, Lauers, and Moores of the world (and their small-town equivalents), we believers must ask ourselves a few questions about truth.
Do we actually believe in absolute truth? Does the truth matter at all times and in all situations, or only when it benefits us? Can we handle the truth (or what’s more, how do we handle it) when it’s unpleasant, inconvenient, or offensive? These are questions we must ask ourselves, know the answers to, and allow to guide our actions–right here and right now. We must declare that the days of keeping silent are over, and that accepting the status quo is no longer acceptable.
Confronting the Ugly Truth
Sadly, I am not surprised at all by the vast number of women who have been abused, manipulated, or exploited by men seeking to gratify their own needs and desires. Nor am I shocked at how many women have kept silent. Often, all it takes is one dismissal, one downplaying, to make a person feel that no one else will listen or care or do anything to help them. And when it happens again (and likely, it will) she will resolve to keep her mouth shut and bury the pain and humiliation.
And those who do speak up? Chances are good that they will find more enemies than allies when they do.
I know this because I’ve experienced it firsthand. And I’ve watched, in disgusted disbelief, how many people–Christian people–choose to maintain their position and perspective rather than acknowledge the truth.
The thing about truth is that it’s absolute. It’s factual and it’s fixed. It’s the moral and logical compass by which God has oriented life. There aren’t versions of it, nor are there two sides to it. Yes, there are perspectives, intentions, and perceptions, but these things are not the same as truth. Truth exists apart from them; it exists outside of us entirely because it does not originate from us. Truth originates from God and it cannot be created. It can be skillfully counterfeited, but that, of course, makes it a lie.
Beware the Narrative
What I find particularly reprehensible is when leaders craft and disseminate a narrative (a ‘truth story’) in order to control the message and advance their own cause. It happens frequently and in a variety of ways. Like spin doctors, they skillfully manipulate facts, choosing what to share and what to leave out, throwing in bits of opinion disguised as fact. They tap into our emotions, fears, shame–even zeal–and exploit it to their advantage. Appealing to loyalty and ‘the greater good,’ they argue that the end justifies their means. Christian leaders who do this cite spiritual warfare, God’s will, or even biblical precedent to shore up their truth story. Despite what method they use, powerful leaders who create these narratives do so under the guise that their position garners them a unique ability to handle what the rest of us cannot.
One of my favorite movie scenes illustrates this perfectly (warning: profanity in this clip):
Many prominent men today, whether in the entertainment industry, the church, or the political realm, are not unlike Colonel Jessup. They believe individuals are expendable if they become an obstacle to the overall goal. A tragic loss, but necessary. They paint the picture for us of how it all went down, so we can easily grasp what is invariably too complicated or too privileged for us to know. They carefully control the narrative so it feels to us like they’re after our best interests, but really, they are only protecting themselves. And since the person is no longer ‘one of us,’ they advise it’s best if we all just move on.
Friends, this is not biblical.
Jesus and the Truth
One of the primary reasons Jesus came was so we could know the heart of the Father. To see it in action. In the flesh. Jesus confronted the Pharisees on the abuse of their authority and power to oppress and manipulate the people. He called them out on their hypocrisy–that they did not practice what they preached. He spoke truth–he was the Truth! The Son of God affirmed the value of the individual again and again through his teachings and his actions. He makes it clear that they matter.
Think of one of these abuse scenarios from the news or from your own life. Picture Jesus standing there with the man and the woman and the accusations. What would he do? What would he say to those gathered around? “There were other circumstances at play”? “There’s more to the story than you know”? “It wasn’t right–but he’s an important person”??
No. I cannot believe he would say any of that. He would speak the truth. The facts. He would lovingly protect and defend the woman and he would lovingly confront and convict the man of his sin. And then he would say, “Go and sin no more.”
I know that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). We all mess up, and I fully believe in grace and forgiveness for one another. Sometimes, even the victim carries some responsibility for her own actions in the situation, and sometimes even good men do terrible and foolish things.
However, in order to ‘go and sin no more,’ some key things need to happen:
- Facts need to be laid out and acknowledged for what they are. Lay your reasons and intentions aside momentarily while you confront the truth head-on.
- Personally accept responsibility for your words, actions, motives, etc. If you don’t actually acknowledge and accept responsibility within yourself, you cannot tell someone else that you are taking responsibility for them.
- Repent, and confess your sins. First, to the Lord, then, to those you have sinned against. Further, confess your sins to someone else who loves you and will keep you accountable.
- Humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. First, from the Lord, then from anyone affected by your sin.
- Make restitution, as appropriate for your wrongdoing.
- Seek help and accept it.
It is not loving, wise, or safe to allow a person in power to continue in their position if they have not done these things. And if their sinful behavior is a pattern, they must be removed, period. Their behaviors must be condemned and not covered up, excused, or explained away. If we are a people who profess we know the Truth, then we must demonstrate that we value the truth in its entirety, along with the absolute nature of truth described in the Bible.
Our actions matter.
Our words matter.
The truth matters.
As believers, we cannot choose to turn away, move on, or keep silent in the face of this continual assault against the dignity and personhood of women. Speak the truth, even when it’s ugly. Say what you see, say what you know.
And then say, “No more.”