Saturday, November 21, 2009


Listen, King of the Jews/ Where is your kingdom?
Look at me—am I a Jew?

I have got no kingdom in this world…

Then you’re a king?

It’s you who say I am/ I look for truth and find that I get damned

But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law?
We both have truths—are mine the same as yours?

Those familiar (as most of us, I think, are) with Jesus Christ Superstar will recognize these words as part of the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate. I quote them for 2 reasons:
1. They are adapted from the excerpt from St. John’s Gospel for today’s Solemnity of Christ the King
2. They lead in to the only occasion for the full orchestral playing of the “Superstar” theme, showing us that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber knew what they were doing

In the Fourth Gospel, Pilate is given 2 tremendous lines. One is referred to as ‘the greatest exit line in all literature’—Quod scripsi, scripsi (“What I have written, I have written”—Jn. 19:22). The other is the sarcastic question, “What is truth?” (18:38). This latter one deserves to be unpacked.

In Pilate’s libretto above, there is expressed a very common ‘post-modern’ view—that there is no such thing as objective truth but only individual perceptions. Therefore, no one can properly criticize another if he/she does not embrace the person’s particular sense of ‘truth.’ To do so would be small-minded, not tolerant, one step (if that) away from fanaticism and bigotry.

This misses the point so entirely as to be virtually a deliberate charade.

Our beliefs may well differ; truth, however, is in fact objective. It has to be, and in all areas of learning and intellectual investigation (except perhaps for moral behavior) we recognize this. 2 + 2 does in fact equal 4. Jesus is either risen or dead. Our planet is experiencing global warming or not. There is what we call a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy or not. Galileo’s view of the movement of the earth around the sun was right or wrong.

In the moral sphere, either a child conceived and in utero is a human life or it is not. There is no room for ‘different truths’ in such a case—it either is or it is not. Truth makes all the difference in how (and why) we form our beliefs. We cannot be callous to the process of investigating truth because we are afraid it might compromise our beliefs (or behaviors). And we cannot casually embrace what we decide to be truth because it is more convenient. Let the truth be discovered without hindrance and without fear. Then embrace the truth, no matter what pre-conceived notions may have been your baggage.

We both have truths—are mine the same as yours? If they are true at all, surely they must be…

No comments:

Post a Comment