It has puzzled me ever since I first began to suspect that “Truth” when used to talk about transcendent realities and the meaning & purpose of life was not the same as “truth” when talking about the mundane facts of everyday reality. Why does Christianity insist on the Truth, but especially of the historicity of its core narrative? Why insist on the singularity and exclusivity of Truth? Why do many, many Christians say to themselves and to the world, “we alone have the Truth, everyone who disagrees with them is dangerously wrong”?
I don’t have an answer just yet, at least not one that I feel is complete. I am certain that a satisfactory answer is related to something I noticed a long time ago. Maybe it was the 80's. I’m not sure. I recall it as being shortly before the start of the Culture War by the Right.
Part of Christianity is beliefs and judgments about people outside the local congregation. Many conservative Christians would certainly agree that their beliefs about homosexuals are an essential part of their religion. Liberal Christians and many young Christians who would otherwise pass for conservatives might differ on that point. I chose homosexuals as my first example because their rights to live like any other law-abiding citizen have been vociferously disputed by conservative Christians of the past several years.
Consider a more delicate example. Jews and the history of Jewish-Christian relations. Or, if that example is too delicate, consider pagans, wiccans, members of the Satanic Temple, Muslims, etc.
If that should seem a little iffy, consider those moralities derived from the Abrahamic religions. Such and such is wrong. Such and such is pleasing unto the Lord. Millennia of moral instruction, oftentimes accompanied by horrific punishments. And still adulterers, murderers, thieves, the covetous, and the like live among us. One conclusion is that this demonstrates the need for moral instruction. This is said most commonly by people fearful of losing their non-menial jobs. “You know I wanna be a Baptist preacher, just so I won’t have to work.” (Son House) Another is that preaching morals does not change behavior in any meaningful way. At most morality teaches careful secrecy (a triplet to her sisters, guilt and shame). Ask anyone who was ever a teenager in the Bible Belt.
Keeping that and the passage quoted from The Antichrist in yesterday’s post in mind, Abrahamic morality is all about beliefs and teachings about people who do not keep the “Law.” Feminists have rightly made a great deal of Patriarchy and its morality. Prostitutes. Need I say more?
Or maybe the necessity of the exclusivity of “higher” Truths is yet one more bit of emptiness, and the knotted string holding all of their contradictory and nonsensical doctrines together. The mystery of the Trinity? All the better to exclude and thereby bind together. It doesn’t need to make sense. “If they can make you believe absurdities, they can make you commit atrocities.” (George Orwell).
The Christian conviction in the exclusivity of the Truth of their stories is just one more trick for the faithful to manipulate the feelings of themselves and of others so as to feel a little closer to one another and to their God. The answer to my perplexity was within me the whole time.