(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)
Last week, I wrote about plagiarism. Now, another truth story is big news – Rachel Dolezal portrays herself as a black woman although she is actually white.
Dolezal says she “identifies as black,” borrowing the language of the sexual identity movement. Identifying as African American was not her problem; she went afoul of good judgment by lying and misrepresenting herself.
In other words, it would have been fine for her to say something like, “I’m a white woman, but I identify deeply with the experience of African Americans.” But that’s not what she did. The Washington Post summed it up this way: Dolezal “had dyed her hair, darkened her skin and misrepresented herself as a mixed-race black woman for much of the past decade.”
There is, of course, a bigger issue – truth. We have a truth problem. It’s not just Dolezal or Buzzfeed Benny, the plagiarist I wrote about last week, or even Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, who rejects the truth of his biological reality by claiming a new psychological reality.
Often we do not like the truth, so we desire to create a new truth, which is actually no truth at all; it is a counterfeit. Black Dolezal is a fake Rachel. Creative Benny is a thief. Caitlyn Jenner is an imposter.
Many readers know this is a product of postmodern thinking. No need to go deep here, but part of postmodern thinking is the notion that there is no truth per se; there is only your truth and my truth. This might seem rather harmless and affirming of different opinions, but it eventually leads to a devaluation of actual truth.
I’m one of those who believes some things are true and some are false. That does not mean everything is either true or false; some things are negotiable.
For instance, it is true that water rolls downhill because of gravity; there is no debate. It’s not just true to me; it’s true. But it is OK to allow for squishy notions of truth in relation to some matters. If I recall an accident I witnessed as truthfully as I can, but it disagrees with the honest account of another witness, we do actually hold two different conceptions of truth in our minds. “Conception” is the key word. There is a real truth about the accident, but our conceptions are different.
Acknowledging the reality and importance of truth was once a given among people who sought to live virtuously. Thomas Jefferson is said to have gathered his grandchildren shortly before his death in 1826 and urged them to “pursue virtue, be true and truthful.” Os Guinness shared that story in his book, Time for Truth, and added that Jefferson “saw with twilight clarity” that truth was “essential to freedom.”
Truth is important to all types of freedom – political, spiritual, intellectual, psychological, and so forth. It is good to seek truth and to speak truthfully. If there is no truth then we lose our anchors in reality.
I do not like some of the truth about myself – namely, the fact that I fall short of what God would have me be; I sin. I do myself no good; however, if I seek to ignore that truth. I do myself the best when I recognize this truth and then allow God to help me become more of the person he created me to be.
I’m not sure which comes first – seeking the truth of God or seeking to be true with oneself. Maybe they both go hand in hand. It is easy to condemn Dolezal, Benny, and Jenner. But, maybe it is better for us to recognize them as symptoms of a broader problem, which affects all of us.
When we lie about a little thing, we are with the three of them. When we mislead others while thinking we will not be caught, we are with the three. When we seek to be something different from what God created us to be, we are with the three. It would be better that we be at one with God and with ourselves.