Lesson 18: God, Truth, and Reality

Womens March on WashingtonSister Joan ended her book with a reprise of the monastic vision found in the Benedictine Rule. She emphasized it offers a practical way to live the Gospel now by discerning God’s presence in all creation. I understand that as perceiving the design running through all creation is the love we know in Jesus Christ.

In the present climate, I think it is essential not to misread her. When she advocates “looking for God on the other side of every event and situation,” she does not mean we should try to understand how everything that happens is God’s will. Well over half of the Bible is made up of prophetic statements that proclaim God rejects what is going on and calls for repentance.

Recently, I have read far too many articles and heard far too many sermons claiming Christ calls us to reconcile in spite of our differences. Certainly we are to seek unity with other Christians and with all other people. Love compels the actions that make even enemies friends. However, that unity is sought in spite of differences in interpreting, not denying facts. Our unity must be based on truth. There is no way to reconcile with people who claim the name Christian, but teach Jesus as a guide to a non-caring kind of success. We can try to understand. We can converse. We can maintain a relationship. But we cannot reconcile if it means ignoring truth. False prophets are to be denounced.

A journalist friend says we have entered a post-truth age. I think he means we have gone well beyond Orwellian political speak to Frankfurter bullshit. Frankfurter describes bullshit as going beyond lying. It has absolutely no concern with truth in any way, as language is simply a way to get what you want and is judged solely by that standard.

So, let’s end this series of lessons by acknowledging community is essential for discerning the truth. That does not mean the majority viewpoint is the truth but rather that listening to others prevents us from reading all from a self-serving perspective. I was particularly struck with Sister Joan’s observation that most of us have to have our talents pointed out to us by other people. That certainly has been true throughout my lifetime. Even more significantly, it reminds me of Paul saying we should not even believe our hearts if they say there is no way we can be saved. We and every other human being is lovable…from God’s perspective.

Let’s recognize as well in this last chapter, she finally comes out and asserts that the Rule has a very feminine perspective. She makes some pretty powerful statements about the need to free God from the bondage in which men have held the divine. She calls for a theology that is not all white, all male, or all Western. She makes clear that she means the feminine gives priority to personal relationships instead of powerful systems. She associates maleness with arrogance, the kind of arrogance that holds others hostage with the threat of nuclear weapons and defines femininity as humility that enters into caring relationships seeking to feed, house, and provide medical care for everyone.

It does not take long to realize her brand of feminism is counter-cultural. The Woman’s March on Washington illustrated perfectly her meaning. It was peaceful, respectful, and caring. Yet, it in no way called for an easy reconciliation between differences. Instead it declared unmistakably that the participants will not submit to a denial of reality. The administration will be held accountable to the truth. Chittister makes clear this does not exclude men. It simply asks them to seek the feminine qualities in themselves.

This topic is so important and timely that I am going to base the next series on the question, “What is Truth?”

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4 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Kerry says:


  2. Concordia Hoffmann says:

    Where was the outrage from the institutional church during the recent political campaign?

    • Fritz Foltz says:

      Cordie, I don’t hear any outrage from the institutional church now. Besides the other obvious reasons, I thnk our officials have not perceived that we have crossed a line and entered a new era. Kerry’s Facebook comments trace its development . I’ll repost them ibelow:

      Theologian Walter Brueggemann and others argue that one of the characteristics of modernity – the worldview launched by the Enlightenment that values individualism, autonomy, and instrumentality above all else – is a reduction of human beings to market categories. Classical capitalist theorists from Smith and Ricardo to J.S. Mill think in terms of homo economicus: narrowly self-interested individuals primarily motivated by the desire to maximize their power in a market economy.

      So do the rest of us: we’re obsessed with how much we earn, how many commodities we own, how much we consume, how much we lust to consume, and so on.

      Throughout my entire lifetime, the steady mantra from presidential candidates has been the need to “grow” the economy, with very little consideration of the opportunity costs of mindlessly pursuing ever higher GNP, and no consideration whatsoever of alternative scales of measurement. But Trump has ratcheted all this up to an unheard of height. He really does think of humans in nothing but economic terms: the art of the deal is the proper gauge of human relationships; more of everything is the proper measure of a nation’s health; bigger corporations and wealthier billionaires are the gold standards (pun intended) of a thriving economy; and the proper way to run government is to treat it as a business.

      His worldview is a cynical reduction of humans to market-driven creatures who can be bought and sold to the best wheeler-dealer. His gamble, I suppose, is that homo Trumpeconomicus, properly fed, will genuflect to the golden calf and acquiesce to anything that the leader of a fat and complacent society wills. And when there are just enough people in the nation who really are in dire economic straits, and who are willing to grasp at even the most improbable of lifelines, Trump’s gamble just might be pay off for him.

  3. Fritz Foltz says:

    Kerry’s Facebook post and the very unusual number of responses I have been receiving all day have reinforced my thoughts in the “Just in Case” e-mail. For those who do not receive it, this is what I wrote:” Until recently the public debate that most concerned Christians was centered around the question “What is the best way to care for the needy?” In the past two weeks it has shifted to “What is truth?”, a more fundamental issue. John’s Gospel makes that crystal clear when he makes that question the crisis of his story. In asking it Pilate not only brushes off Jesus’ message but also justifies his execution… I believe what is happening goes deeper than the present political administration that simply exposes what has been going on all around and in us for some time. To reduce the image of God to an economic creature is to profane it. “


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