It’s right there in scripture. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)
But sometimes, I don’t want to hear the truth because I really don’t like it!
In 2019, when the neurologist told me to go to the hospital for 15 days of plasmapheresis, it was truth I didn’t want to hear. But when she told me I could choose to go to the hospital or risk losing the use of my legs, I realized it was the truth I didn’t like that could make me whole.
A shockingly significant number of our citizens evidently don’t want the truth. Facts don’t matter. (I recommend historian John Meacham’s podcast, “The Fate of Fact.” ) They prefer irrational, unscientific, anti-historical distortions or already disproven lies that protect them from dealing with facts they don’t like. Two recent examples.
The Truth About QAnon
Last week United Methodists in Florida met online for our Annual Conference. On the agenda was a resolution calling us to “denounce the QAnon movement as anti-Christian, and against the values inherent in the United Methodist Social Principles and … [to] encourage our clergy to preach to and teach their congregations about the dangers of the QAnon Movement’s teachings, which have no place in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church or in our Nation.“
The resolution was approved, but I was shocked and saddened when 43% of the members of our Conference voted against it.
Good folks might have good reasons for voting against it. Some simply don’t like resolutions. But I wondered, What have we been teaching and preaching in our churches? What Bible are we reading? Have we read the Constitution? Do we realize the increasing violence in this movement? Why was this truth that some faithful folks didn’t what to hear?
The Truth About Racism
The same Conference voted on a resolution on “White Responsibility and Accountability in Dismantling Racism.” (You can read the complete text of both resolutions at Conference Workbook, p. 196 and p. 203-208.) It called white United Methodists “who benefit from white privilege to acknowledge and repent of the ways they have abused their privilege and power, so that all might rediscover their calling to be ambassadors of reconciliation and peace, living more faithfully with all God’s children into God’s Beloved Community.”
That resolution passed with 61%, which meant that 39% of our brothers and sisters voted against it. Some folks said they affirmed the intent, but were uncomfortable with the language. But there’s truth there that we white folks don’t like to hear.
While the Conference was acting on that resolution, Florida’s Governor and Commission on Education were approving new rules banning so-called “critical race theory”, although there’s no evidence that it is being taught in our public schools while private schools are free to teach any white-washed or Christianized version of American history they might choose.
Supporters of the rule said it will prevent students from learning history that might “denigrate the Founding Fathers.” But it’s not denigrating our Founders to tell the truth: while they lifted the ideal that we are all “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights,” those “inalienable rights” were not Constitutionally available for women, Native Americans, or Black people in slavery.
Abigail Adams asked the Continental Congress to “remember the ladies,” but our Founders were white men of their time, influenced by the Enlightenment, who believed in reason and truth. Along with their vision, they left us a rational, non-violent, democratic, Constitutional process by which to build “a more perfect union.”
The Truth that Sets Us Free
Confronting the painful truth of our past and the ongoing influence of systemic racism in our lives today (read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson) is our only way to the freedom our Founders envisioned. In the same way, the only sin that can be redeemed is sin that is confessed. Only the truth can set us free.
Jesus spoke those words during a debate with “the Jews who had believed in him” about their Founding Father. (John 8:39-59) Jesus affirmed Abraham, but he called his followers to “be doing what Abraham did” (8:39) in following God’s call. He said, “Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (8:55-56).
I want to believe that our Founders would be glad to see the way we continue to work in our own day to fulfill the ever-expanding vision they lifted for us.
And here’s the promise, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed!” (8:36)
Grace and peace,