The Desirability of Truth

Sexual Authenticity - More ReflectionsMelinda Selmys has a new book out. Sexual Authenticity: More Reflections is a wonderful collection of reflections on sexuality, Christianity, mental disability, fiction writing, conversion, and much much more. It’s an incredibly rich work. Her love for her readers really shines through in this deeply personal and reflective book. You should order it here.

In a section on “12 Things Every Catholic Should Know About Homosexuality” she seeks to convey that “Truth told without affective love is not true love.” She writes, “Truth is not an abstraction. It’s a person.”

It seems to me that the near total inability of Christians to minister to gay men and women comes from a failure to understand this fact, this all-important fact that also reveals the utter failure of almost every philosophy department in America, especially in Christian universities.

But this is a problem for Christian preaching in general. Christians often preach the apocalyptic consequences of turning away from the truth, because we fail to understand that people might desire the truth as they desire a person: unfailingly, persistently, and so moved by beauty that they are willing to do and give up almost anything to get it.

I’ve always believed that if people saw the truth, they would desire it. The problem is that we too often present the truth in a way that doesn’t enable them to see it. If they don’t desire it, we haven’t shown it. The failure on the part of most Christians to present the Church’s teachings on homosexuality in a desirable way suggests that most Christians don’t understand these teachings. I must admit that, for me, living out the Church’s teachings is hard. I couldn’t imagine following them if I didn’t desire them.

And I couldn’t imagine another person truly converting without desiring. A priest in his homily today noted that a conversion is not the same thing as an aversion. One does not truly convert if he is only turning away from a sin or an evil. Conversion is a turning to something. The problem with Christians is that we often present people with much more to turn away from than we present them with something to turn to.

Chris DamianChris Damian recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame and is currently pursuing degrees in Law and Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas. He can be found on Twitter @UniversityIdeas.

8 thoughts on “The Desirability of Truth

  1. I LOVE this! It makes me think of Matthew 13:44 –46, some of my absolute favorite verses in the bible. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

    Also, my former pastor posted something similar to Melinda’s quote (“Truth told without affective love is not true love. Truth is not an abstraction. It’s a person.”) to Facebook recently, and the first few responses were predictably critical. I think that’s pretty telling in itself.

  2. I’m not sure that this is strictly accurate. Isaiah 53:2-3 paints a picture of a Person who is unattractive, even repellent. Should this Person be identical with Truth, shouldn’t we expect that this message will be unattractive and rejected?

    • Firstly, Isaiah 53:2-3 pictures Jesus. And what makes him unattractive is specifically his suffering and death for the world. To the degree that the Church reflects Christ in this, yes the Church will be unattractive.

      Also, no we should not do things merely to make ourselves “attractive” to the world. Pizza parties for the youth are fun, but they are not evangelism or descipleship.

      But what is going on the Church today is that we are specifically making ourselves unattractive by WITHHOLDING the very things Christ died to give His people from homosexuals. Blog after blog after blog that I read from conservative pastors blasts homosexuals without once offering the grace of Jesus. Further we withhold from those who do repent the very fellowship which forms the foundation of the Church itself.

      When the Church is unattractive because she is reflecting Christ, this is a very good thing. When she is unattractive just because she is being bitchy, this is a very ugly thing.

      • It seems to me that your response attempts to separate Jesus from His crucifixion and consider each separately. But we can’t do that since, without His crucifixion, He’s not Christ. If that’s the case, then neither can we separate the Gospel message (the Word) from that which is unattractive and repellent.

        Further, I find your distinction between the Church being unattractive because she reflects Christ, and the Church being unattractive because she’s “bitchy,” too subjective. Different people may react to the same message in wildly different ways. I’m not sure we can accurately gauge the quality of a message only by the reaction it produces.

        So, as far as the bloggers, radio hosts, and other assorted Evangelical personalities are concerned, I share a lot of your frustration. But, so what? Unless they’re being dishonest (intellectually or otherwise) in what they’re saying, how can I fault them? Certainly, a great deal of things that Christ had to say were unsettling, disruptive and repellent to the people He said them to.

        I just don’t think there’s very many conclusions we can draw from the fact that evangelical messaging towards homosexuals has been bitter and divisive.

  3. “I’m not sure we can accurately gauge the quality of a message only by the reaction it produces.” —irksome12
    Perhaps we can’t judge the quality _only_ by the reaction. But the purpose of the message is to assist the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing people to salvation through faith in Christ and, consequently (not necessarily in advance), to the conversion of life it entails. When the massage fails to produce the intended reaction, we can say that in a very important respect, it was very poor indeed. Not necessarily that it stated objective falsehood, but that it presented truth very poorly.

    A teacher can know an academic subject well, but if s/he doesn’t present it in a way that leads his/her students to want to learn it, s/he has failed as a teacher.

    “Unless they’re being dishonest (intellectually or otherwise) in what they’re saying, how can I fault them?” — irksome12
    You can fault them for driving people away from the Lord with their unloving — therefore unchristian — manner of presentation.

    • But, the assumption here is that a “Christian” presentation of the message will always result in the message’s acceptance. Matthew 10:14 and Luke 9:5 seem to be premised on the idea that this isn’t necessarily the case.

      • irksome12, I can certainly appreciate the desire to protect against pragmatism. The idea that the gospel isn’t being preached correctly unless there’s a 100% positive response is thoroughly unbiblical. But I don’t think that’s the point of this post.

        What I took away from this was
        1) A person isn’t truly converted unless he not only turns from sin, but turns to Christ.

        2) Christians should be making much of the Christ who is worth turning to.

        In your response to Matt, you wrote:
        “I just don’t think there’s very many conclusions we can draw from the fact that evangelical messaging towards homosexuals has been bitter and divisive.”

        To be honest, I’m a bit puzzled by that statement. It seems rather clear to me that we ought to be heeding Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 4:5-6.
        “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

        Surely, even if you don’t think that we can draw many conclusions from “the fact that evangelical messaging toward homosexuals has been bitter and divisive,” you can at least arrive with me at the conclusion that bitter and divisive aren’t characteristics that are congruent with the above verses.

        (And I realize that as the one with the lone dissenting opinion, you’re being sort of ganged up on here, so thanks for being a good sport about it.)

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