Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Truth and Authority

Ideologically driven leadership, be it religious or political, has the habit or sense of the need to “control” matters and “maintain order.” They especially dislike the fact that ideas resist this impulse to control. Timid or authoritarian leaders tend approach “the problem of truth” by two ways: A. they attempt to boil “truth” down to essential formulas, imagining that in this way truth too becomes “manageable” and b. they attempt to control truth imagining they can contain it by using mundane instruments of power.

Truth however because it is always greater than anyone trying to control it defies these misguided habits, and remains “controllable” only in ways consistent with the grandeur of God.

On the one hand creating formulas proves insufficient because truth reflects reality which is two-fold in nature. It is comprised of both principles and providence. Principles are static and immutable (and can be rendered into formulas), but providence, namely the historical flow of history met with the transformative force of principles interpreted and applied cannot be reduced to formulas.

The progressive forward flow of reality is that element of divine and human existence which gives authoritarian (control-based) leaders the most discomfort. Providence is progressive, and proceeds into the horizon of choice and abundance. Because of this it requires interpretation which by nature is multiform. Truth pertaining to this end of the spectrum cannot be achieved by generating lists of essential (static) principles. A broad and unified home for truth sufficient to embrace providence can be gained only in an atmosphere of openness, trust, dialogue, and consensus (things which tend to be felt as threatening to timid or authoritarian leaders).

Establishing parameters of interpretation sufficient to sustain the homogeneity of a community requires putting forth accessible principles, processes, and publicly identifying and acknowledging persons in the community for the purpose of relating to the multiform by nature of interpretation. These three (principles, processes, and publicly identified and acknowledged persons) should be given the brief by the leadership, with the assent of the community to meet the challenge of harmonizing the multiplicity of interpretation into a common voice. The public and accessible aspect is requisite so as to retain accountability. Truth is allergic to back room politics.

Authoritarian leaders, however, leaders pursue uniformity (also in the area of controlling truth) by seeking to utilize:
a. Control over access to centers of authority
b. Control over human and material resources
c. Control over imprimatur (i.e., what writing and speaking is acknowledged as "offical")

While it is possible to control the physical wherewithal of others by such means for a limited period of time, it is not possible to likewise control ideas. No regime in history, regardless of its might has ever successfully controlled ideas though many have tried. This will always be the case, even for communities where a heavenly truth and a profoundly shared ideal obtain.

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