The recent bombings in Sri Lanka are a tragic and painful reminder violence begets violence. It is also sharp and terrible reminder of the futility of fundamentalism. Holding to a version of truth about what it is to be human in such a way as to believe it can be the only truth will eventually lead to actions if not inevitability of physical violence, certainly of violence of judgemental words of rejection and oppression which harm deeply and cause suffering and pain which can last a lifetime.
Today’s highly connected world is often described as ‘post-truth’; opinion becomes fact and false stories become political weapons. Events are quickly reinterpreted to fit a particular narrative whether or not there is truth or evidence for in the interpretation. Those who hold an opposing view are quickly dismissed with pejorative labels and the aggression of group-think.
It could be argued there is too much for us to really know what is really going on or at least to know where to start unpacking all the information and the opinions available to us. Certainly the most important skill we can teach our children is the art of thinking critically; not just what have I been told but who told me, why did they tell me and what do I know or need to know to understand if what they have told me is true, verifiable and helps me better understand the world I live in.
Combined with this is developing the art of reflection and self-understanding. What has shaped my view of the world? What biases or influences do I need to be aware of when I reach decisions about what I think about others and what I will do about what I am experiencing? One test I use is asking if I am willing to learn from people whose world view I disagree with.
The author, activist and rapper Darren McGarvey said in his book Poverty Safari “trying to build a consensus or, God forbid, acknowledging the virtue or integrity of the people who you disagree with politically or coin ceding where other ideas have succeeded can get you publicly shamed and lynched – by your own team”. He is, sadly, absolutely right.
As I enjoyed the Easter sunshine last weekend, I reflected on how, despite the fact my relationship with the Christian faith community has changed considerably, what growing up and becoming active in the Christian faith community has taught me which still shapes the core of who I am and what I believe.
It gave me an abhorrence of fundamentalism and a commitment to justice which goes way deeper than simply the business of politics or political processes. It taught me to think about where what I am being told comes from, who wrote it and what the basis is or evidence of what it says as well as an appreciation of the power of metaphor, mystery and storytelling. It helped me understand the idea of truth having many faces and the need to be deliberate and nurturing about living the values I hold to be true. And it led me to believe I will find my meaning and purpose in doing what it takes to love not just my neighbour and the stranger and those who wish to see themselves as my enemy; recognising I will often not succeed in doing so but not beating myself up when it happens.
In a ‘post-truth’ world where fundamentalism is eating away are the soul of humanity, these things are what keep me going and help me believe there is a better way to be truly human. I would value knowing what others think – how do you make sense of what’s next for humanity?