After class, a friend looked at me earnestly and said, "I'm scared I would have joined them. I'm not just scared, I'm almost convinced that I would have."
The "them" to which he referred is the Nazis.
Certainly, my first reaction is to assure him that there is no way that he would have joined them. He is a smart guy, thoughtful and compassionate. Surely, if found in the throes of genocidal regime, he would have resisted their propaganda. Surely, I would resist such a thing.
Yet, I'm not entirely convinced of this surety in myself or in him. Not because I don't think that we aren't smart, thoughtful, and compassionate. Our positive traits are not in question here. Rather, it is our inabilities, our failings, our crimes against our conscience that concern me. Can we resist the seduction of half-truths? Can we discern the truth in world of lies?
Eve and Adam fell prey to their inability to discern between truth and lie. They relied on what seemed to be most immediately true, but was in fact, the eternal lie. Their failure to discern and trust truth narrates my own failure. This failure expels me from the garden, expels me from right relationship with God, expels me from right relationship with others. Avoiding my failure, seeking to placate it with a bandage emblazoned with religious symbols, is a profane declaration of the impotency of my will.
Truth declares my impotency against the seduction of the world. Truth acknowledges my failure to live according to my ethic. Truth regularly, daily, momentarily reminds me that I am in continual need of something beyond myself to empower the discernment of the truth so desperately needed in so many places.
And yet, truth's primary work is not to expose my failures, but to supersede them. This truth goes beyond adherence to the facts and rests in all-encompassing love, wrenching discipline, and arresting faithfulness. Truth overcomes my infatuation with immediacy and perfection and changes me. Truth, when trusted, reveals itself to be worthy of deeper and more faithful devotion. To seek truth is uproot lies from their bases and set forth a new pattern of living.
Perhaps my friend and I cannot be certain of what we would have done in a different era of tragic violence, but we are living in our own era of violence and lies in need of truthful, faithful action. Am I seeking truth with my mind, my heart, my hands, my debit card? Am I seeking truth with my time, my plans, my hopes?