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From the very beginning, the truth has been central to Christian faith. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." In the one instant where Jesus engaged in a discussion with a sly political leader, Jesus said he came to testify to the truth, and Pilate rhetorically asked Jesus, "What is truth?" not actually expecting an answer. Pilate's essential nihilism has not endeared him in our religious history. He is remembered as the one under whom Christ was crucified, after all.

Lies cause harm. When such lies are perpetuated by those in power, including the president of the United States, they cause even greater harm. This week we have seen the dangerous impact of the failure of truth-telling in our nation -- a vacuous insurrection, devoid of any real purpose other than hooliganry. It's notable, is it not, that whatever the events of Jan. 6 were, they signified nothing at all, simply sheer frustration about a reality that doesn't exist. In Christian perspective, a nation has hit a low point when a senator gets a standing ovation simply for reminding his colleagues their responsibility is to tell people the truth.

People of authentic faith remember that truth resides in the space of testimony. Christians by and large are not relativists. We do not believe that all truths are relative; neither do we believe truth and lies are simply opposite sides of the same coin. Truth is truth. But in Christian perspective, truth is also not incontrovertible. It inhabits the space of discourse. We discern the truth. Returning to Jesus' statement in front of Pilate, he says he has come to "testify to the truth."

We have reliable systems for such testimony in our nation. States count votes, and governments certify them. Courts perform their role, hearing evidence when such counting and certification is contested. Then, once various forms of testimony are brought, the courts decide what is true. We discern truth in and through such processes and institutions.

This is how truth works. Truth is not an ever deferred and bald assertion by one powerful man who says, "Just wait, we're bringing more evidence. We won by a landslide." Nor is truth hidden away and sequestered by a special privileged few, insiders to the conspiracy. That's gnosticism, not Christianity, and that's simply not how truth works. Quite the opposite, that's how liars lie. They believe their subjective personal claim has greater validity than the vetted and communal process of the courts and states and nation.

A nation that offers itself, cravenly, to the lies of a demagogue is just so bound and beholden. It is no longer free. Jesus said if you know the truth, it will set you free. As a Christian pastor, I'm a little lost these days on how to share the truth with people so gullibly willing to believe race-baited lies and conspiracies, but I do know for sure that Christian faith does not travel such roads.

The Rev. Clint Schnekloth is lead pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. He blogs at www.patheos.com/blogs/clintschnekloth or email him at [email protected]

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