Monday, February 29, 2016

Clobbered by "Truth"

Those of you who have had some theological training will likely recognize the Greek word aletheia. It is the word used many times in the New Testament and translated into English as truth. According to John 14:6, Jesus claims to be the truth (ἡ ἀλήθεια).
Well, last week I was trolled by someone who gave his (surely it wasn’t a her!) name as Alethia 21and I assume that name means the same as aletheia. That person, about whom I was unable to find any other information, left very negative comments on four different blog articles of mine.
All along I have encouraged people who disagree with my views/ideas to speak up. I have welcomed dialogue—and there has to be some disagreement for there to be any real dialogue. But I have also expected civility, and I have always tried to be civil toward those with whom I have disagreed.
Alethia 21, though, didn’t mince words—and didn’t seem to pay much attention to civility. In the comment he posted on my Feb. 19 blog article, he said, “But now I realized your [sic] a sanctimonious sarcastic liberal. Quite ignorant of what really goes on in life I might add!”
(Well, I may be somewhat ignorant of what really goes on in life, but at least I know the difference between your and you’re! And you should read some of the harsh things he said!)
At the beginning of another comment—and true to his Internet name—Alethia 21 declared, “The issue is always TRUTH! We can say the truth but we can do so in a Christian manner!” Then, just before referring to “Lucifer Obama,” he wrote, “If truth insults then so be it!”
(Actually, these latter comments were later removed by Alethia 21.)
Several times I have seen conservative Christians insisting that it is more important to be biblically correct than to be politically correct—although I have not been able to see why it has to be one or the other.
The insistence on being biblically correct is almost always tied in with a literalistic reading of the Bible considered to be inerrant. Among other things, but at or near the top of the list of what it means to be biblically correct, is the gay/lesbian issue.
Much of Alethia 21’s emphasis on truth, and much of his anger toward me, was directly related, it seems, to his vociferous opposition to gay/lesbian rights. What looks to us “liberals” as political incorrectness (as well as ignorance and bigotry), seems to people like Alethia 21 to be adherence to the truth of God’s word.
That kind of polarity in society, and among people who claim to be Christians, seems to be insurmountable in this present time. How can people be so greatly divided about the truth? And why do some professing Christians think it is all right to clobber others with the truth (as they see it)?
Perhaps the over-confident and overbearing use of truth fueled development of the post-modern view that denies there is any “absolute truth.” Everything becomes relativized: you have your truth, I have mine.
Back in 1995 a helpful book dealing with the challenge of post-modernism to Christianity was published under the title Truth Is Stranger Than It Used To Be. That title expresses the present reality.
Certainly, the post-modern view of truth is much kinder than old views such as that the one held by Alethia 21. But is it the truth? Probably not.
But, admirably, this view at least rejects the legitimacy of clobbering people with “truth.”


  1. Sounds circular.

    I appreciate Gov. Pilate's response, "What is truth?" It is not a mean reply, but rather very valid given the class of cultures and languages he faced. Our trouble is that this has shredded the unity of the Church from early on, and Christ's command to "Love One Another" is foreign. We seem to do better in groups of those like us,

    It would be nice if we could have a universally accepted standard definition for this word (and several other divisive, foundational words).

  2. Leroy, I feel you've given more attention to this than is necessary. Meaning...I hope this person doesn't expect more attention now that you've devoted an entire blog post to his/her rantings. Best to ignore it and realize that if someone is attacking you in this particular way, then you must be doing something right.

    1. Thanks, David. I don't particularly expect to hear from Alethia 21 again. I was mainly hoping to get some discussion started about the meaning of truth and how truth can be used as a cruel weapon, but perhaps I did not make that clear enough.

  3. Engaging with an internet troll is like engaging with a hungry lion. It is best to ignore them or view them like you would view a hungry lion. They want you to engage with them so they can eat your emotional energy. View them like you would view a lion in a zoo and it will make for a much better day.

    Also be careful not to equate a conservative/liberal troll to people with conservative/liberal viewpoints. 2 videos on the the topic are below.

    1. Thanks for the advice, Doug. I have no way to contact Alethia 21 directly, and I have not responded and will not respond to him on the blogsite. I introduced him and his uncivil messages in order to raise the question about truth--and the misuse of truth to attack others.

  4. I weant to commend you Leroy for even printing what someone else put in print about you.
    Just reading your Blog shows your sincere Love coming through.
    I am so glad we grew up together in Missouri and have benn in touch ever since.
    In my eyes you are a True man of GOD and one in whom I am so glad I am learning from.
    Blessings in Christ,
    John (Tim) Carr

  5. Leroy, thanks always for your good writing. i enjoy and appreciate your views. Last Sunday, i preached at the local Presbyterian church saying that as a Christian, "Being born from above," we should start raising flag and voice to work for the will of God bringing peaceful society of no gun ownership in the nation. Out of about hundred in the congregation, one man came to me and said "I disagree with you" and another came to me and mumbled something which i didn't get what he was saying. Except those two, all expressed joys in my sermon, but there are two....

    1. Thanks, Ed, for writing and sharing your recent experience.

      I always assume there are those who do not agree with what I say in my sermons--but most people are unwilling to say that they disagree and why. If those who disagreed with your sermon were civil, I think they are to be commended in being willing to express their thoughts/feelings.

      It is when people criticize harshly without giving their name and how they can be contacted that I don't like. I don't have trouble with honest disagreement, but I don't like incivility and hiding in anonymity.

  6. Perhaps this research prompted by your article will serve some good purpose. I hope my counts have a high degree [not likely perfect, I am aware of procedural limitations; a form of epistemological humility] of accuracy; trust me or check my work. :-)

    Where the Septuagint (LXX) corresponds to the Hebrew Bible (HB) about 85% of the occurrences of ‘aletheia’ are for ‘amen’ based words; ‘emeth’ being most frequent (about 64%) and ‘emunah’ next (about 16%). I conclude from this that the biblical meaning(s) of ‘aletheia’ [NT especially?] is strongly influenced by the meaning(s) of ‘emeth’ and ‘emunah’.

    It is also interesting to note that when ‘emeth’ is rendered by ‘aletheia’ or ‘pistis’, 95% of occurrences are ‘aletheia’. When ‘aletheia’ or ‘pistis’ is used for ‘emunah’, the proportion is about 50-50. I take from this that the biblical meaning(s) of ‘aletheia’ is related to the meaning(s) of ‘pistis’. Our English HB translations recognize this by often using ‘faith/trust’ words for the Hebrew words; in a sense a forgetting (‘lethe’) of the LXX meaning(s). :-)

    As an experiment, we might try replacing ‘truth’ in NT translations of ‘aletheia’ with ‘trust/faith’ words; e.g. “I am the truth” with “I am trustworthy (or trustable)”; “You will know the truth” with “You will know what (or who) can be trusted”; “Do the truth” with “Do what is trustworthy” or “Practice being reliable”. [This doesn’t always work well.]

    We might make an attempt to move from ‘truth’ as isolated ‘facts’ to be used like a sledgehammer to break down toward ‘truth’ as relational ‘facts’ to be used like a regular hammer to build up. Thanks, Leroy, for the evocation!

    1. And thank you, Dick, for sharing the fruit of your research and for your helpful suggestion about how to understand truth in a more dynamic way than we usually do.

  7. Here are significant comments, part of a longer email, from Thinking Friend Patrick Crews, who now lives in California; we were personal friends during the several years he lived in Japan (and are still friends, but we haven't seen each other since he left Japan).

    "Regarding religion, I'm certainly on the liberal end of the spectrum, perhaps radically so. Except that the 'You have your truth, and I have my truth' thing doesn't really describe me. I may not be a proponent of absolute doctrines, But that's more because I see religious doctrine as a servant to the Truth, a servant that sometimes must be guided and disciplined, and never has the final word.

    "Truth itself is not an intellectual position, a law, or even a principle. It's a quality of relationship we have with Being. It is Being, deeply and fully, as opposed to superficially with beliefs instead of believing-in. Truth is Grace. Truth is Integrity, where Integrity is being integral with reality and participating in Being rather than trying to make it an object of control and manipulation. Truth is Kindness, Empathy, Compassion, and Justice. Truth is Spiritual Intimacy as in being one in The Spirit. Truth is openness and a vulnerability to change. Truth liberates.

    "So where you find so-called Christians who are attached and addicted to dogma, you don't find the Truth. This is why the Pope could say Donald Trump was not being a Christian in his bigotry and delusions. Yes. Grace does not build walls of separation."