Truth is power. I don’t think many people disagree with that statement. Truth is power. Yet we often miss that little “is,” functioning as an equal sign: Power is truth. That’s an equally “true” statement. As the old proverb goes, “Until lions have historians, tales of the hunt will glorify the hunter.”
I pondered this recently as I spent a pleasant afternoon at a cafe on the piazza of Santa Maria de Trastevere in Rome. Santa Maria is a stone’s throw from the Vatican. It’s one of the oldest Christian churches. Now, Santa Maria is a scenic antique in a beautiful old neighborhood. Once it was a bastion of power as Christians seized control of the Roman Empire.
When the church was being built Christians were poised to destroy one of the most religiously diverse societies in human history. We are only now approaching—this time virtually by virtue of the internet—the sort of religious diversity Rome enjoyed at the turn of what we now called the Common Era. Christians were rooting out the cult of Mithras and his ilk and rooting in the cult of Jesus.Soon enough “pagans” would suffer the same persecuted fate that Christians recently had. And the Roman world would sink into nine hundred years of murderous parochialism.
Truth is power. Power is truth. The thinnest blue line is not the various militaries and police forces trolling our planet but the thoughts that might yet save us from our barbarism.
If only Santa Maria de Trastevere had shared the beauty of its truth without the sword. I’ll drink to that . . .