During this election season—whether you identity as left or right, Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Independent, a socialist or a capitalist—as you engage in the political debate, do you really want answers? As you decide which candidate will earn your vote, do you want to know which of his or her claims more closely align with reality? Or are you content with deception? As you listen, read, and argue, are you committed to following the facts wherever they lead, or are you more interested in what C.S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, called getting “good marks and saying the kinds of things that win applause”? Do you embrace a childlike sincerity and hunger for answers or are you more like a teenager, starved for popularity? Do you want your arguments to be right and true—even if you stand alone—or would you rather be politically correct and fashionable as you follow the crowd?
Os Guinness, in his book A Time for Truth, challenges our adolescent tendency to eschew the factual in favor of the faddish. “Truth does not yield to opinion or fashion” he says. “It is simply true and that is the end of it. It is one of the Permanent things. Truth is true even if no one believes it and falsehood is false even if everyone believes it.” Popularity and political trends have nothing to do with ideological veracity. Truth is not determined by vim, vigor or vote. Truth is a “permanent” principle and it often stands antithetical to changing fads of politics, power and popularity.
As the cultural debate ensues in the days ahead, which do you want? Is your goal to pursue truth or is it to protect your opinions? Do you really want answers? Do you want to embrace ideas that are tested by time, validated by reason, and confirmed by experience? Are you interested in principles that are enduring and self-evident? Do you want a better understanding of the ideas that give us life and liberty? Do you want to pursue those ideas that lead to happiness rather than haplessness? Do you believe that free people are better governed by a healthy and humble conscience or do you place more confidence in the consensus, the crowd or the king? Is your goal to embrace the “permanent things” or is it, rather, merely to preserve your political power and position?
As the elections near, do you really want answers? If you really do want your ideas to be confirmed if they are right and corrected if they are wrong – then perhaps you would do well to humbly set aside all partisan desire for “good marks” and instead seek what is true (even if it is dreadfully unpopular) and give up what is false (even if it is a dearly loved passion).
“If you look for truth, you may find it in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth [but] only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” C.S. Lewis