NIUU, February 5, 2023, a brief version
The truth will make you free! Those words summarize the theme of today’s sermon.
Truth can be a slippery concept because those who want to deceive others often become adept at using partial truths to communicate a larger lie.
That may sound all too familiar because it’s happening so much these days.
Our Fifth Principle of Unitarian Universalism faith calls on us to use the democratic process in our congregations and in society at large. Of course, the democratic process is unwieldy and much more difficult in practice than in theory.
Yet it has long provided a reliable method of maintaining order and freedom at the same time. Order and freedom have to exist side by side. Without the presence of both we have chaos, and the longing for a strong woman or man to lead and protect us may come to the fore.
Difficult circumstances make the practice of democracy much more challenging, and that reality has been the breeding ground of various forms of authoritarianism. On the left, authoritarianism has appeared in the form of totalitarian Communism.
On the right, authoritarianism has appeared in the form of totalitarian Fascism. It is a recurring pattern, and our society is as vulnerable as any other. The will of the people as a whole is our strongest protection.
The end results of democracy are hard to foresee, but I do believe that in the long run, the truth will come out, and the truth will keep us free.
Benjamin Franklin spoke to a questioner after the writing of the U.S. constitution: “What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” she asked.
“A republic if you can keep it,” he answered.
Keeping our republic is the task of every generation in the U.S., and in our time the task requires our faithfulness to truth.
The most important qualification of truth in any context is that it is not optional. Of course, truth does depend on one’s point of view.
Obiwan Kenobi said to Luke Skywalker (in the first Star Wars movie),
“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
The truth does not change, but it has many facets, like the precious gem that it is. Our point of view will determine which facet we will see at a given time.
One of the best ways to understand truth more fully is to broaden our perspective of time and place, to step back from our own closeness to it.
One person’s truth is not different from another’s in terms of the truth itself, but it may often definitely seem that way.
A wider perspective provides more power to the truth to bring us freedom.
A democracy cannot function if it does not value truth.
Likewise, it cannot long function if it gives more value to one person’s truth than to another.
The very first principle of the Unitarian Universalist faith is a key: We believe strongly in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
If we truly practice what we preach in regard to this first principle, we will surely seek equal rights for all people regardless of race, gender, and any other distinction that could be used for denying humanity to some people.
Let it be.