Friday, September 14, 2007

Where does your faith LIE?

At Greenbelt Festival this year, Ikon's theo-drama, entitled 'The God Delusion,' (conveniently) posed one of the central research questions of my PhD thesis:
'Before we ask "Is Christianity true?" we must ask "What does it mean to claim that it is true?"'



This performance resonated with so many of my own questions (both personal and academic, though the two can never be anything other than intertwined) that it's hard to know where to start. But Jon's "Where does your faith LIE?" got me thinking about an interrelated question which I don't think I've explored nearly enough yet. Here's the text:



Where does your faith lie?
Does your faith lie in the belief that the universe was created in six 24-hour days?
Does your faith lie in there being an ark on Mount Ararat?
Does your faith lie in the account that God once made a donkey talk?
Does your faith lie in the belief that miracles don’t happen?
Does your faith lie in God once wiping out a city of thousands because it had homosexuals living in it?
Does your faith lie in the belief that everything the Bible says about ancient Israel is directly applicable to the modern state of Israel?
Does your faith lie in the belief that you will beat the odds and your smoking will not lead to a long and very painful death due to emphysema?
Does your faith lie in the research of the Royal College of Physicians or in the research funded by the tobacco industry?
Does your faith lie in the notion that the next politician you vote for will not support the next war?
Does your faith lie in Jesus having brothers and sisters?
Does your faith lie in the hope that heaven is full of people like you?
Does your faith lie in the free market?
Does your faith lie in the postcards that Christian Aid has you sent to the Prime Minister?
Does your faith lie in making poverty history?
Does your faith lie in the next president of the United States?
Does your faith lie in the United Nations?
Does your faith lie in scientific rationalism?
Does your faith lie in Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK?
Does your faith lie in the belief that there must be a good reason for why your government is detaining people indefinitely without trial?
Does your faith lie in your own ability to discern the mind of God?
Does your faith lie in the physical resurrection of Jesus?
Does your faith lie in the belief that civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are unavoidable?
Does your faith lie in the hope that a nineteen year-old Iraqi man whose sister and mother were killed by an errant allied cruise missile will not hold you responsible because you once carried a sign that read ‘Not in My Name’?
Does your faith lie in the belief that God does not punish sin?
Does your faith lie in the belief that there was nothing more that you could have done?
Does your faith lie in your tradition being closer to the truth than another?
Does your faith lie in the virgin birth?
Does your faith lie in a balanced diet and exercising?
Does your faith lie in your own body image?
Does your faith lie in the belief that anyone who shoots back is a terrorist?
Does your faith lie in maintenance of the status quo?
Does your faith lie in he (or she) eventually coming to their senses and taking you back?
Does your faith lie in a hell beyond this life for those who didn’t accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and saviour?
Does your faith lie in an endless supply of cheap energy?
Does your faith lie in the Stormont Assembly?
Does your faith lie in the words ‘peacemaker’ and ‘peace supporter’ being synonymous?
Does your faith lie in the belief that ‘follower of Jesus’ and ‘member of a church’ being synonymous?
Does your faith lie in your job?
Does your faith lie in financial savings?
Does your faith lie in the belief that sectarianism has nothing to do with you?
Does your faith lie in liberalism?
Does your faith lie in your own good intentions?
Does your faith lie in the belief that the investment and development coming into Belfast City Centre is significantly improving the lives of those living in the estates in Shankill, Ballymurphy, New Lodge, Ballysillan, Glencairn, Dundonald, Ballymacarrat, the Village, Finaghy, and the Markets?
Does your faith lie in Loving God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself?
Does your faith lie in God loving the world so much that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not die, but have eternal life?
Where does you faith… Where does your faith… lie?
(Written and performed by Jon Hatch)


I know in the conversations I've had we've been concentrating on the nature of 'truth,' and Jon's performance started me thinking about the nature of 'untruth.' So I wondered what you thought?

If 'truth' is a correspondence between language and reality (i.e. 'God exists' is true because the statement accurately refers to an external reality that would still be true even if we didn't believe it), what is 'untruth'? Is it a lack of full correspondence between language and reality? In this sense, is all human language a lie?

If 'truth' is what we decide it is (i.e. 'God exists' is true because as part of a Christian community we have agreed to use this language, and this language determines or constructs the reality of our world), what is 'untruth'? Is 'untruth' the 'truth's of other communities, their languages, their worldviews, their realities?

If 'truth' cannot be determined with regards to its correspondence to or construction of reality, and can only be understood in terms of it's transformative effect, what is 'untruth'? Is 'untruth' a transformative effect which we termed 'bad'? Or is 'untruth' that which has no effect at all?


I'm reminded of a parable from Pete's How (Not) To Speak of God: A person, hiding Jews in their house from the Nazis, is asked whether there are Jews hiding in the house. The person says, "no." Are they lying or are they telling the truth?

And at last year's Greenbelt, Ikon handed out pieces of rice paper with the words 'I beLIEve' written on them, and we gave them to someone sitting near us with the thought that, if our beliefs don't nourish others then are they lies rather than truths?





(photo of Jon by Moyra Blayney, available from Ikon website).

2 comments:

samuel said...

Wow! Great thoughts!

Katharine Moody said...

Hi Samuel, thanks for stopping by. I'm still thinking about how 'untruth' relates to my thesis on 'truth.'

I recently read Daniel Guerriere's "The Truth, the Nontruth, and the Untruth Proper to Religion" in his edited collection "Phenomenology of the Truth Proper to Religion" and it sparked off some more ideas. I'll mull them over for a little longer and then post again about this.