Instant Replay and Reality
There is no black and white, only gray. There is no truth, only what is true for each person. Persuasion is a violation of the other.
These sentiments and the perspective the represent have become deeply embedded in the collective consciousness of our society. They are nearly assumed by all who are tolerant and loving. They are becoming the proverbial water in which we swim.
This perspective has certainly been doing its work on my own framework for engaging the world. I have dramatically shifted not only my perspective, but also my approach to issues and people, in the last ten years. I do believe that listening is a far better first step than talking (even if this doesn’t always work itself out in my practices!). I do believe that there is great nuance in our world–pure black and white is naive. People truly do have different perspectives that dramatically color perception. Yet there is in all of this a path that leads to oblivion. Football reminded me of this.
Yesterday I was watching one of the first football games of the year, and after a play was ruled to be a fumble, the team that had lost the ball challenged the call. The referee went to watch the review and the commentators walked all the viewers through slow-motion replays. As this was happening a thought struck me. We are all looking at this replay assuming there is objective truth to be found. It either was or was not a fumble and we will have a better chance of determining the truth through slow motion replays.
Now there is still plenty to soften the edges of this assertion. Fans of each team will find ways to see the replay as favoring their team. They may see the truth if they are willing to work hard at laying aside their affinities, but it will be difficult. Sometimes there is not a clear angle and the best the referee can do is make an educated guess about what happened. The play may even be so close that there is no way to tell for sure what happened. Yet none of these things negates the underlying assumption of all the people watching the game that there is a true event that actually happened. And if there is a true event it is something everyone should try to see as it really is.
I recently had the joy of speaking with an international student from Iran. He was so honest, personable, and engaging. In the course of the conversation he shared his belief that all religions necessarily divide people because they create “in and out,” “us and them.” After more conversation and reflection on this, I think he was on to something, but not just about religion. In his expression of agnosticism he was also creating a division of belief. I was either with him in that belief or not. There isn’t a position to be taken that doesn’t create “us and them” on some level. This doesn’t mean people can’t deeply love and befriend each other across these beliefs. We absolutely can. I’d even say “us and them” is too strong–perhaps better to say there is no way to erase significant differences without all believing exactly the same things. And we will wrestle with this because there is a reality to be sought out and discovered.
Like the football play, there is a reality. Either God exists or he doesn’t. Either Jesus died and rose from the dead or he didn’t. Either he will return as King or he won’t. These are not matters of opinion, they are aspects of reality with which we must wrestle. (It would be nice to have an instant replay!) Even those who say there is no truth are trying to get at the truth. That the world is random and devoid of meaning is still a claim to know the nature of reality. We’re all pursuing that. I hope we pursue it with love, grace, and peace toward each other and a willingness to listen before talking. I hope we recognize the difficulties of the pursuit based on our own ingrained perspectives and biases. I hope we remain humble in our beliefs and interactions. And I hope we understand the gravity of the pursuit. It is not unimportant. It is not something to be cast aside as antiquated. It is something to be pursued with the best of ourselves, in community, with humility and intention.
So that we may know the truth and be set free.