Friday, October 07, 2005

Truth is my authority

I stumbled across a quotation the other day that brought back memories of leaving evangelicalism behind.

"Truth is my authority, not some authority my truth.'
~Mary Dyer

I remember reading it in a book and saying to myself, 'Yes, that's how I want to live my life,' kissing away the authority of preachers, churches and ancient books and opening myself up to follow my own heart and wherever honesty and integrity would lead me.

Its been one year since partner dude and I started attending Quaker meetings. One aspect of Quakerism that I find rings consistently true and perpetually challenging is the honesty testimony. Being honest 100% of the time is tough.

To be consistently honest in my work, not taking shortcuts (hey, I'm a research student - we like shortcuts). Now, as I apply for various jobs and have to present myself honesty, not fluffing up my application forms and trying to find a way to put my true self across in interviews (not just what I think they want to hear) - that's not easy.

But also in my own personal journey of discovery and exploration. Finding a way to be true to my experience and to follow the inner voice, questionning, reflecting, being totally honest. That's tiring. Sometimes it would be nice to have a book to turn to for absolute guidance (but Quaker texts are full of soul searching questions, and even the Bible itself is more of a blinding light than a guiding one!)

But this is where honesty, integrity and truth will lead, and that's where I want to go. True to myself, true to the world and true to others.


Peterson Toscano said...

Very clear and well stated. Thank you for posting this. Having just spoken with a number of evangelicals about the Bible's authority, Mary Dyer's simply profound statement clears away the muck

Lorcan said...

I had just written a long comment... from the heart, hit send and it disappeared into the cyber junk yard of history, I hope this is not a double post, or worse yet, an imperfect double post, half capturing what I'd said, as I drifted from the honest and funny to the honesty of the heart... but here goes, I mentioned that I was talking to a friend ( a bartender, well a bartender and friend, to be honest, I was drinking tea for most of the day, while writing a booklet on plain dress... honestly, tea, until most of the day's work was done, at which point I had a cider... ) but the friend and I were talking about Mary Dyer! And I was writing about honesty.
Honesty, the personal witness to truth, is perhaps the most difficult difference in living as a Friend. Several times in my life holding to honesty changed my life ... and not for the better, but, perhaps it was for the better though it was horribly painful and the pain flowed from the fact that honesty is not the way of the world. The world expects, for politeness and expediency, a fairly large amount of half truth or outright lies.
I gave a message about honesty once, about the disservice to the God within done by the conductors on the Underground Railroad who told half truths, rather than the simple, I will not answer thy questions as to do so would help thee do harm to thy self by harming another, I love thee with God's love so I cannot tell thee... a Friend rose and said, the slave catchers are around today, and you have to live in the real world where expediency makes a half truth or lie a necessity. I replied that the road to hell is much more often paved with expediency then ever it was with good intentions.
In our meetings, the "real world" much to often intrudes. I think of Mary Dyer, facing the worst end imaginable for the sake of the honest truth, and yet, we for the silliest reasons accept that avoiding truth and honesty makes the world go round, even within a Quaker meeting. Once one such time, I was led to speak to the honest truth, I was called a liar to my face by a Friend who would not shake my hand or seek clearness, this Friend of many years - who is considered a "weighty" Friend by so many carries the cumber of a crushing weight of avoidance of the honesty of many things. The meeting seems unable to undertake the task of helping this and other Friends walk in honesty with the God within them and others, because the "real world" avoidance of truth and honesty - the way of the real world has become the way of most meetings. And so we do not avoid the tangle of briars on the road through a world killing itself for the lacking of love.
In Thomas, Jesus says, paraphrasing badly, that it is that which we hide within us that destroys us...
I think that within us can only be released and healed through honesty.
thy friend and Friend, missing you and partner dude

Willie Hewes said...

Hi, got here through Peterson's blog (been meaning to look you up).

Hey, if you can find a job like that, you're a better woman than I! (I fluffed. Shamelessly.) My own partner-dude's a bit like that. Always the honorable one. He just had his first New Deal appointment. :/

Seriously though, it's a good maxim to try to live by. The best of luck.

Paul L said...

This is more of a response to lorcan's comment where he says in response to a Friend who defended the underground railroad conductor's telling a half-truth to protect a hidden slave: "I replied that the road to hell is much more often paved with expediency then ever it was with good intentions."

It's true that making an ethical decision based on the calculated effect of the decision is risky. But so is adherence to an abstract precept such as Honesty. Doing so I think risks turning Honesty into a God.

I first got this idea from the book, Lest Innocent Blood be Shed which tells the story of La Chambon, a Protestant village in southeast France that sheltered and saved hundreds of Jews from the Nazis. The author noted that the strict, Bible-believing Protestants of La Chambon were not only willing to risk their lives by sheltering Jews, but also their everlasting souls by deliberately lying to the Nazis at times about their activities. He characterized this willingness as an even greater sacrifice than those who woodenly followed the precept not to lie regardless of the concrete consequences.

Of course, if you believe telling a lie or a half-truth invariably sets in motion a continual chain of other lies, thereby damaging the moral fabric of the universe and sowing the seeds of greater suffering later, then sacrificing the slave or the Jew to preserve Truth may be justified. But isn't that result a speculative calculation, too?

Lorcan's sugestion that the better answer to the slave-catcher's question is to refuse to answer in order to prevent the miscreant from futher damaging his soul may in fact be a more courageous answer if the person giving the answer can take total responsibility for any suffering that may result, but if the response would jeopardize the safety of the innocent -- the hidden slave, the speaker's children -- then I question whether that answer is really defensible.

I think Detrich Bonhoeffer speaks to this kind of situational ethics vs. absolutism, but I can't put my my fingers on it right now.

rex said...

I love this quote ["Truth is my authority, not some authority my truth.' ~Mary Dyer] but to use it myself, I'd have to change it to "Reality is my teacher, but because I'm an imperfect learner, I very much need to hear your understandings of what reality is teaching you." And if we disagree, let's humbly continue our seach together.