Truthfulness is goodness. Unless, one is engaged in a social situation. How many times do we hide from truth? I think, if we were honest, we would say often. But what about social situations? Can truthful speaking cause harm? A few of us can think of scenarios where we would withhold the truth. Is a potential conflict involved? Would everything go smoothly with just a small lie? And always the question, “where is the harm?” Is Diogenes still looking for the honest person?
Honest, Scout’s Honor
The Boy Scouts of America is an organization of which I have taken part many times. Now I am suing them. Well, not me personally, my congregation is part of the potentially harmed in a class action suit. Why are we doing this? We are protecting ourselves from potential liability suits. We are the charter organization for a Troop. If an allegation of child sexual abuse comes to our attention, we promise to act. But, if we fail to act even by ignorance, we could still be held liable.
Truly is it ridiculous. But it is the fallout of the BSA covering up (not being honest about) sexual abuse of the members. How did it happen? Likely there were two considerations involved. The first is that Boy Scout Councils did not share information with each other. And more importantly they were trying to avoid “bad press.” The revelations over the last few years proves they were merely putting the bad press off until now.
It is easy to judge the failures of other people. How many mainline or evangelical protestants have sneered at the Roman Catholic Church over the scandal? When lay members asked my opinion about it, I cautioned them not to look closely at ourselves. We simply do not know the secrets our brothers and sisters keep. Accusations could be leveled at any time. We do not know.
We want to believe individuals, organizations, and institutions associated with us are honest. But your friend will lie. And so will you. The pressure increases along with the number of people involved. Groups lie more easily than individuals. Self-preservation is basic to human life. An institution preserving itself is just as basic. What harm is done?
Apparently, a lot of harm is done by covering up the truth. We can safely say that lies do no good. Churches and para-church ministries must take notice here. You may sustain yourselves with lies. But it will only be your curse. Progressive Christians often roll our eyes when we see claims printed about Noah’s Ark and Creationism. We spot the desire to make a buck by selling nonsense as “Biblical truth.” But we are not so quick to recognize the lies we perpetuate in the name of “spirituality.” It is a gross problem. Too often people are led into the wilderness trying to turn their thoughts inward. We mistake self-absorption for spirituality.
How do we respond when we feel prayers never get past the ceiling. Are we honest about that spiritual dryness? Do we acknowledge spiritual dryness even exists? Do we burn ourselves and others out from too much advocacy? Are some of the things we advocate for that important? Are there some advocacies that are mere “bandwagon” issues? Is the issue of the truth important?
Truth And The Good
The argument between Truth and Good has been going on longer than Plato and Aristotle. Biblically speaking, truth is good. We can ideally have both. Yet, good only comes from the truth originating from a character of steadfast love. The Hebrew concept of hesed is difficult to translate. English uses more words to define what this word represents. We could use ideas like loyalty, love, mercy, and stubbornness to cover it.
What is more important? Should we know the truth or have the good? Personally, I value the Good more highly. But my perception of Good can be deceptive. Truth becomes more important then. So, I want to know the Truth. Are these in any way exclusive?
Jesus claimed the Devil is the Father of Lies. He further claims the Devil is a murderer. Evil comes from lies. (John 8:44-47) Truth and Good are not exclusive. If they appear to be, then we have mistaken one or the other.
I say all of this because the Church (and all institutions) must have a bedrock foundation of honesty. Otherwise, we cannot love.