Where does truth fit in our makeup?
Whether or not P.T. Barnum actually said, "There's a sucker born every minute" is a matter of conjecture among historians. One biographer indicated that Barnum would never have spoken about his patrons in such a derogatory manner. Another attributed the quote to a con-man who traveled the carnival circuit and spoke to rivals of the Barnum and Bailey circus. It's just more urban legend about one of our great entrepreneur forbears. The source isn't the deal anyway. Who said it really is of little consequence. That's it's true is more the central idea. And, it seems to be more true now than ever before.
Suddenly we're America the gullible. Access to information can be one of bad guys here. Now, we're instants away from just about anything. The technology of the information age paints a target on our e-mail address or web site or mobile phone number. Add in some weaknesses of the modern human psyche and our falling for things seems more reasonable, like being afflicted with FOMO (the fear of missing out). So, when the scammers call or the letter about the death of a far distant cousin arrives or that happy person announcing the cruise you just won reaches out to you, or the political candidate with promises to heaven and back leaves a personal message, we're more than ready to pounce on the deal, accept the gift, take the next step, or pledge our support. Hey, this is life in the big city.
Then again, there are the missing life puzzle pieces that historically introduced balance and equilibrium into the equation for humans in the cross-hairs. Our version of the species is no better or worse that those that preceded us. The fallen nature of mankind is what it is and has always placed us on both sides of the gullibility thing. One of the missing life puzzle pieces that in previous generations gave some measure of protection from the manipulative forces out there is the certainty of truth. Maybe it's just coincidence that the gullibility factor so prevalent today exists in a world where relativism defines most things. Maybe not.
It's a simple definition, relativism. It is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. It's not new, the concept of moral or cultural relativism. The Greeks played around with truth 2,400 years ago and people have always tried to leverage truth with the times to make it more suitable to our own preferences, you know, the self-adoration of human nature. It's been done by degrees over these two plus millennia but has finally been legislated in these times by removing truth from most areas of human behavior. So, suddenly, there's no moral absolute about gender, human sexuality, marriage, family, religion, work ethic, submission to authority, and the measures that at one time defined character. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, fidelity, right, wrong, good, evil, and a host of other character notations are therefore self-defined slippery ideals with no base-line of accurate measurement.
As an evangelical truth for me is a person, Jesus Christ the Lord, who is the incarnation of absolute truth. Knowing the truth sets me free from the natural human predilection to serve as my own compass for right and wrong or to chart life by the cultural norms of the times. Believing in moral absolutes frees me from setting convenient boundaries that can be stretched or narrowed by whim or the opinion of others.
The demographics of our time may further explain this aversion to truth and why so many of us are susceptible to the angles and deals, rumors and lies that stalk us. Church attendance is down, the "nones" are the fastest growing religious affiliation among our population, and "nominal Christians" seem to be a growing norm. Even at church these days we herald preachers and congregations that loosely apply truth to many areas of behavior. Our aversion to anything absolute makes us prey to the many predators aiming to lure us into just about anything. Without truth, we're the culture of the empty suit.
Jesus spoke to his followers about the coming of the Spirit of truth. They were heartbroken to know he would leave them, and they must have wondered how they could live the life he called them to without his personal example, the truth. He said---
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not
speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will
declare to you the things that are to come.
John 16:13, ESV
So, this is the age of unbelief and moral, cultural relativism. But, here we are, the ones he promised to guide in all truth and sent to influence our times. We must not only believe it, but we must live it.
Truth. It's one of missing life puzzle pieces is a world that needs them all.