Some years ago I read a magazine article describing a new junior high mathematics textbook being used in some parts of the country—with the teacher’s manual seriously recommending that if students gave wrong answers to any of the questions, the teachers not correct them, as this might damage their self-esteem (Insight, November 24, 1997). This illustrates one of the major problems in America today. Our society is very good at having opinions, but not so good at seeking the truth—especially when someone might be upset or offended by it. Everyone has an opinion, and there are hundreds of people who make their living sharing their opinion with us on TV or in the newspapers—plus there are thousands of on-line bloggers who offer their thoughts on every subject imaginable. What role does the truth play in all these efforts? The American humorist Mark Twain once wrote that “The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense,” and he also said that most writers regard truth as their most precious possession—which is why they’re so careful not to give any of it away. The contemporary columnist George Will once wrote, “Truth is an exceedingly rare commodity—but even so, the supply greatly exceeds the demand.” Many people are like the teenage boy who was in trouble with his dad; the father demanded, “Young man, I want an explanation, and I want the truth!” The boy responded, “Make up your mind, Dad; you can’t have both.”
Our world often finds truth to be inconvenient—but Christians are called to a higher standard. There’s a story about St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most brilliant and intelligent men in history. A friend of his played a silly joke by shouting, “Look, Thomas, there’s a flying ox!” Even though he knew this was impossible, Thomas looked out the window—and, of course, saw nothing of the sort. His friend laughed, and said he was surprised so smart a man was so gullible. St. Thomas answered, “It is much easier to believe that an ox could fly than that a Christian could tell a lie” (The Catechist, p. 271). This story illustrates the Christian commitment to the truth; it’s something we must strive to live up to, even if other people—and society itself—are falling short. The Kingdom of Christ is founded in truth, and we must seek for, and live by, that truth which only Christ can give.
The Solemnity of Christ the King reminds us that God has absolute standards. Heaven is not a democracy, in which morals and values are decided by majority vote and subject to later revision. Instead, as described in the Book of the Prophet Daniel, Christ has been given complete authority, and His dominion is everlasting; it will not be changed or taken away. The Book of Revelation describes Jesus as “the faithful witness”; His reign, which will be fully established and acknowledged only at the end of time, will not be based on changeable human opinions, but on unchanging and eternal Divine Truth. As Jesus explained to Pontius Pilate, truth is the basis of His Kingdom. Pilate, as a cynical politician, had trouble understanding what Jesus was talking about, but Our Lord was very clear. His authority as King is higher than any earthly power, and those who serve Him must seek the truth; as Jesus said, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.”
How well does the United States listen to the voice of Christ? In some ways we’re still a very religious country, but in many other important ways we fall short; in particular, popular myths and lies are increasingly promoted at the expense of the truth. I’d like to read to you what I call a list of “Ten Lies Our Society Promotes.”
(1) Abortion is primarily about a woman’s right to her own body, and there’s no other human life involved. (2) Homosexuality—including same-sex “marriage”—is merely a lifestyle choice. (3) If your marriage isn’t perfect and no longer meets your needs, divorce or adultery are the only rational solutions. (4) Suffering has no value or purpose; therefore, those who are suffering should have the right to die if they, or someone else, decides this would be for the best. (5) Money is the measure of a successful life, and your value as a person depends on what you own. (6) The former ideals of personal integrity, accountability, and commitment are old-fashioned and no longer apply. (7) Most people are victims, and need to rely entirely on other people or on the government to solve their problems, instead of using God’s grace and their own efforts. (8) There are no absolutes, so individuals are free to choose or create their own truths and values—and all such “truths” are equally valid. (9) Tolerance is the highest virtue, so we have no right to label certain actions as sinful. (10) The separation of Church and State means Christians must keep their religious and moral values to themselves, and because religion is historically proven to be divisive and a negative influence, believers have no right to try to shape what sort of society they live in.
These ten assertions are all lies—but many people embrace them and build their lives upon them, even though this foundation will crumble in the end, perhaps in a disastrous way. God’s revealed Truth is forever true, no matter how unwelcome or politically incorrect it may be. We for our part must make a choice. We can follow the way of the world, with its popular but misguided teachings—in which case we’ll live by the false values I just mentioned, and in the end be destroyed by them. On the other hand, we can follow the way of Christ, living as His subjects in His Kingdom of truth. At the very least, this will involve some degree of inconvenience and unpopularity, and quite possibly some experience of rejection and persecution. However, it will also lead to inner freedom and peace in this life, and eternal happiness in the next. Jesus truly is King, and this means that no matter how hard the world tries to ignore or deny Him, He has the final word. Blessed are we if we accept this truth, and live accordingly.