(EDITOR'S NOTE: Faith Matters is a column written by the social concerns committee of the United Churches of Lycoming County. The monthly feature will include local faith-based comment on significant social issues facing us today. Letters reacting to the columns should be brief and clear and may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in the columns are those of the writers and the social concerns committee, not necessarily the Sun-Gazette.)
Most of us in faith communities studiously avoid telling one another how to vote in political elections, no matter what we think our faith indicates, for we don't want to cause division in a congregational enterprise unified by a common spiritual set of beliefs. So now that the voting is over, we may feel some relief from the tension, and we can now put our faith to work on the problems that remain unsolved by the results of an election.
Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9 quote Jesus as saying, "Seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Most who sought truth in the presidential debates and in local, state and national campaign literature likely were disappointed. Expecting the whole truth and nothing but the truth in any person, presentation or document, even the U.S. Constitution - let alone the ideologies of political parties - has its problems. All of these have an angle, an axe to grind.
Idries Shah tells this story of the Sufi Moslem teacher Nasrudin who said to his king, "Laws as such do not make people better; they must practice certain things, in order to become attuned to inner truth. This form of truth resembles apparent truth only slightly." Nonetheless, the king decided that he could, and would, make people observe the truth, so he built a gallows at the gates of the city and instructed his guards to question everyone who came to enter. Those who told the truth were to be let in; those who lied were to be hanged.
Shah tells it as follows:
Nasrudin stepped forward.
"Where are you going?"
"I am on my way," said Nasrudin slowly, "to be hanged."
"We don't believe you!"
"Very well, if I have told a lie, hang me!"
"But if we hang you for lying, we will have made what you said come true!"
"That's right: now you know what truth is - YOUR truth!"
With the deceptions of the campaigns behind us, we all can return to seeking inner spiritual truths to guide us in our social and political activities while we continue to question the central "truths" put forth by the political parties, the NRA, the NEA, DEP, the "fair and balanced" news commentators, the late-night comedians, the fossil fuel folks, the alternative fuel folks, Ayn Rand and Andy Reid. Somehow "THEIR truths" don't always ring true. We seek the truth that sets us free, at least inwardly, and have faith that doors will open.
- Coates, a member of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Williamsport and a retired Pennsylvania College of Technology professor of language and humanities, is a member of the Social Concerns Committee of United Churches of Lycoming County.