Last week I was talking with a friend about abortion. My friend, who is not Catholic, has pro-abortion political positions, and I pointed out to him the simple, biological fact that at conception, a new organism, with unique DNA is created.
“Science,” I pointed out “proves that life begins at conception. Your life and mine began at the moment of conception, and if anything disrupted it we would not be here.”
My friend told me that what I had pointed out was “my truth,” but that it was not “true for everyone.”
I have been pondering the idea that a biological fact could be true for me, and untrue for others. It simply makes no sense. It is not reasonable.
Truth is a simple thing. Something is true, or it is not. Things cannot be true and untrue, or true for some, but not for others. No matter where one goes on this planet, the planet will always be round, and it will always have gravity. Gravity is true for you, and for me, because it is true.
Mathematics proves my point: 2+2 always equals 4. It would be unreasonable to suggest that for some people, 2+2=5. Imagine being at a cash register and receiving the wrong change, pointing this out to the cashier, who responds: “My truth tells me I gave you the right change.”
The idea that truth is an objective measure of a thing is quickly becoming lost in our culture, and that is disturbing. To live without ever believing that we can know the truth is to live without hope. Knowing what is true, and seeking it, is the source of all hope.
The same is true of morality. If an action is wrong, like abortion, it is always wrong. In contemporary culture, many people believe that morality is determined by shifting social norms, or simply by what feels right at each moment. The “truth” for the South African Broederbond (Brotherhood) justified apartheid. The “truth” for the Communists justified the gulags. And the “truth” for the Al Qaeda terrorist cells justified the attacks on our country 11 years ago.
Sadly, we live in an age where the idea of moral truth is eroding. What our forefathers called “self-evident truths” are denied by many in our society, most especially the right to life and dignity of the human being. But goodness is rooted in reality, and can be known by our reason.
Those who profess the universality of truth, and the universality of morality, are labeled fundamentalists, intolerant or ignorant. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said that in contemporary culture man is expected to simply be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine.” The uncertainty, ambiguity and confusion caused by this kind of culture is what Pope Benedict calls the “dictatorship of relativism.”
When our minds and hearts are constrained—unable to really believe in anything, to find truth in anything, we do live under a dictatorship. When it is impossible to judge our own conduct or that of another, we live without any freedom. When we cannot know what is true, good or beautiful, and aspire to it, we live in a kind of slavery.
We who know Jesus Christ know truth. Jesus Christ himself is the way, the truth and the life—he frees us from the slavery of uncertain confusion. Moral law, and absolute certainty, set us on a path to the pursuit of goodness—and to freedom, which comes in a life lived according to truth. Jesus Christ sets us free from the relativism of the world. He renews our minds.
Our task is to share our freedom with captives.
The effects of relativism are seen in our treatment of the unborn, the poor and the immigrant. They are seen in our crumbling families, and in our despairing culture. The effects of relativism are everywhere. Unfortunately, those held captive by relativism, like my friend, are rarely convinced by the force of argument. Argument depends on a belief in absolutes and the use of reason, which relativism has discarded.
If we wish to see the world lived according to truth, we must introduce the world to the source of all truth—to Jesus Christ himself. He is the heart of the new evangelization! Let us proclaim to the world the source of truth, and the source of our hope.