Exercise Your Right To Live In Jesus' Truth
“You want the truth?!? You can’t handle the truth!” The statement is often parodied, even 22 years after the release of the movie version of “A Few Good Men,” because it is such a powerful expression of relativistic thought in the modern world. Jack Nicholson’s character – a battered, war-hardened commanding officer – is pridefully chiding a young JAG prosecutor, telling him that ethics and morals are situational. In this case, a young soldier, Santiago, had a pattern of failure that might get others killed, so other soldiers in his unit took matters into their own hands. Then, operating under a flawed honor code, no one in the unit would reveal the truth of the young Marine’s murder. Nicholson’ words seem to echo through the world today.
There is a movement toward interpreting truth as being conventional; merely the agreed-upon rules that allow others to live together in community. The thought is that there are no foundational truths that underlie our laws, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, etc.; rather, we just agree that certain lines need to be drawn to protect our understanding of what is important. This thought is far from being new as philosophers like Nietzsche and Sartre advanced them in the mid-19th Century. What concerns me is the way that such postmodern thought has slithered its way into contemporary acceptance.
In the end, postmodern thought defeats itself when carried to logical extremes. Categorical imperatives and universal truths can never exist, say Postmoderns, despite the fact that such a denial is both a categorical imperative and universal truth statement. The fact of the matter is that truth exists outside of and beyond social thought, but as a society, we’ve lost touch with the very basic truth that every person has dignity, and once we move away from this truth, society degenerates and disintegrates into rules that attempt to protect rights that are based on nothing but social convention, thus alienating the individuals who comprise the society itself. The social construct becomes the master of the ones who created it.
Too philosophical? Perhaps; but if you’ve critically examined contemporary issues, it doesn’t take long before you realize that people throw around the word “right” a great deal, but what they are really saying is “I want a law that protects my desire to do whatever I want.” You want to kill your unborn child? You have the “right.” Carry your semi-automatic, high-powered rifle into a crowded McDonald’s at lunch time? Yep, you have the “right.” But rights have never been based on a person’s ability to do whatever they want simply because they want to do it; rather, rights have been expressions of the understanding that people, created in the image of God, and therefore endowed with certain inalienable rights, are free to be good and to work for the good.
Rights are not about what I want. Rights are about my freedom as a person with inherent dignity, to live the best life I can for myself and others, and I am called to protect that same dignity that is integral to every person I meet – even those who fail to see this in themselves. Any right flows from this dignity, and this often requires people to check their self-interests and desires in favor of a greater good.
There is a key difference in this position when compared to a socially relativistic position; it is truth, and sadly, perhaps the media, special interest groups, and unabashed greed stand as witnesses to the fact that many simply can’t handle the truth today. And if Jesus is who He said He was, then I fear for our society. Because if we can’t handle the truth, then we can’t handle Jesus, who is the “way, the truth, and the life” Himself.