Monday, October 29, 2007

Crisis of Truth

~by Archbishop Joseph Naumann from First Things...tolerance and diversity as the new absolutes
Without the acceptance of objective truth, everything becomes negotiable. The moral conscience of society and the individual are impaired. There is confusion in the recognition of good and evil. We become uncertain about such fundamental institutions for family and society as marriage. From the denial of natural truth, a nihilism emerges that we find expressing itself today in art, literature, and films. We become confused about what is good and noble. We question what is worth devoting our life to. This confusion results in a great interior emptiness. We try to distract ourselves with more and more things, divert our attention with more and more entertainment, and numb ourselves with drugs and other addictions.

I remember watching, as a child, an episode of The Twilight Zone. It began with doctors and nurses with surgical masks gathered around a hospital bed of a female patient whose face was completely bandaged except for her eyes and nose. From their conversation, it became apparent that this woman suffered from a hideous disfigurement which a series of plastic surgeries had failed to correct. They had attempted one final surgery that the doctors were optimistic would solve the problem, but they would not know for certain until they unbandaged her face several days later.

They finally come to the moment of truth—the unwrapping of the bandages—and we see that the woman’s face is stunningly beautiful. The doctors and nurses shake their heads with disappointment and apologize for their failure. For the first time they remove their surgical masks revealing grotesquely hideous features. That is how it is in The Twilight Zone: The beautiful is ugly, and the ugly is beautiful.

This is a helpful image for the consequence of relativism that impairs a culture from recognizing what is objectively good, beautiful, and true. In The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul had this to say about objective truth: “The Gospel of Life is not for believers alone: It is for everyone. The issue of life and its defense and promotion is not a concern of the Christian alone. Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity. Life certainly has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone.”

This battle for the reality and existence of truth is not a new one, although the strength of secular relativism today is undermining the foundations of culture and society in a unique and devastating manner. We can find the battle between truth and its denial right in the Passion, when the accused prisoner, Jesus, asserts: “I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice,” while his earthly judge, Pontius Pilate, feebly responds with the classic relativist’s question: “What is truth?”

I prefer to be a disciple of Jesus rather than of Pontius Pilate.

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