Minister’s Reflection – Sept. 19/19
Rev. Dave Crawford
**(this Reflection was written mostly Sept. 17th, prior to the federal political upheaval of the last 24 hrs. Rather than rewrite, I’d invite you to consider the whole subject of “truth” as explored in the Reflection but also as debated/discussed with regard to our current prime minister.)
Congratulations to 2019 Polaris Prize award winner Haviah Mighty, hip-hop singer from Brampton, Ontario. The Polaris Prize is worth $ 50,000 and is given to honour the best Canadian musician in a given year, both monetarily and in terms of increased exposure. It’s not based on popularity or prestige but on quality, so anyone can win, theoretically. I’m not much of a hip-hop fan. Can’t tell you who the top hip-hop artists are. I did, however, watch the late-night Global News story Monday on Haviah Mighty’s victory. She gave a short speech in which she referred to being grateful for the opportunity, through her music, to speak “her truth”. In her own words, “This is the first time I’ve been able to speak my truth, my narrative, and have an album that’s based on that theme, my truth and how important that is!”
“My truth”. An interesting phrase, certainly a fairly new phrase or term. Where did it come from? How did it arise? Now part of contemporary culture, part of the vocabulary, what does it mean and what does it imply, subconsciously perhaps?
If I, from within my own sense of self-identity, my own psyche or spirit, discover or create some credo or statement which I perceive to be “my” truth, is it at all important that my truth coincide with some common societal truth, or at least with the “truth” of another individual? If my truth conflicts with your truth, is either one in some sense closer to, more reflective of, some notion of objective truth? Does that matter? Or if society determines that a particular truth or fact is objectively true, and by implication my truth, or yours, is false, does society possess the right to judge the validity of your personal truth or mine? Further still, in the context of the West’s ever-growing drift toward greater individualism, how will societies come to consensus on key moral issues in the future if our notions around “truth” become increasingly diffuse, varied, and relativized?
Perhaps more philosophical speculation than you expect in a pastor’s musings, but I do wonder if some of the discussion also transfers to the area of spirituality? In other words, is there still a central “truth” around which the Christian community gathers, or do we as spiritual seekers bring our own truths to worship on a Sunday, regardless of what the Bible, the UCC, or our preacher has to say! Would a devout Muslim person approach the mosque with no claims or beliefs regarding ultimate truth, or with one central all-encompassing truth about who God is, for starters? What about us? I’m not so sure. Yet our roots, our tradition, our religious history – it’s always been centred around ultimate truth claims.
In John chapter 18 we find Pontius Pilate questioning an already arrested Jesus, and the topic of “truth” comes up. Here’s part of the conversation:
“Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’
Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:37-38)
Of course the answer to Pilate’s last question is revealed through the cross and empty tomb but also back in John’s Prologue: “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
The United Church of Canada often boasts of being a “large tent” denomination, embracing diverse perspectives on spirituality, varieties of social justice causes, allowing, inviting questions around faith and life. Yet is Christ still the way, the truth and the life, for us? Ultimately, we tend to believe at least, all our personal truths are gathered together in the all-embracing Truth that is God’s Son, the Church’s Savior, Jesus Christ.