After attending the same-sex wedding of her sister, Katy Anderson completed her about-face regarding same-sex relationships. HuffPost deemed this change worthy of publishing as a story because Katy Anderson is a Mormon. In the article that’s gone viral, Anderson confesses, “My sister is happier and healthier than she has ever been, and that has fundamentally changed me ― and the way I view religion.”
What caused me to furrow my brow and contact my editor is Anderson’s assertion that while at the wedding, she witnessed “pure joy in the countenance of someone I care for deeply, someone who has been through immense pain and many trials, someone who is finally living her truth.”
Is living our truth a goal that we should have? The answer is no. Living our truth is not a goal that we should have.
One of my great frustrations is that woefully few people have even a basic understanding of epistemology. In fact, many don’t even know what the word means. For those who don’t, it means the study of knowledge. In short, epistemology interacts with the questions: What can be known? And how do we know it? Risking boring some readers and angering others with my pitiful explanation of epistemology, I bring it up because Anderson apparently believes that experience and feelings are good foundations for knowledge. Sadly, she’s in the majority on that point.
Think about how often you hear someone begin an assertion with, “Well, I feel …,” or a variation of Anderson’s “living her truth” platitude. Basing our beliefs and opinions on feelings is an intellectual disease that is wreaking havoc on our society. Feelings are easily manipulated and, as such, largely untrustworthy.
For example, while watching horror movies many people feel afraid. They feel fear. Yet, there is no objective reason to have fear while sitting on your couch watching Sandra Bullock wander blindfolded through the world of Bird Box. The feeling of fear may be exhilarating and fun, but it’s not truthful. In that moment, the feeling of fear isn’t based on a legitimate authority. And that’s the real question we need to ask ourselves as we make decisions and evaluate beliefs: on what authority am I basing my decision/belief?
Constructing a society that elevates feelings (living my truth) to the level of authority is highly problematic. On what legitimate basis can a society prevent a father from marrying his adult daughter if their truth is that they love each other and want to express that love through marital intimacy? On what legitimate basis can a society prevent a woman who believes that her truth is that she is a quadruple amputee from amputating all of her limbs? On what legitimate basis can society intervene if my neighbor’s truth is that he owns my house and wants to tear it down to make room for a swimming pool?
That final example is intentionally absurd and designed to prompt quick responses along the lines of, “well, obviously we have to have certain laws in place to protect the rights of others or society will devolve into utter chaos and violence.” To that, I ask, “based on what authority?”
I mean, if you deny my hypothetical neighbor the right to live his truth, no matter how absurd and/or harmful it may be, you have laid waste to the epistemology of feelings. You have undermined your own ability to claim, “I’m living my truth.” Either everyone gets to live their truth, or the concept should be jettisoned. Because at that point, the question becomes why are some people allowed to live their truth and others aren’t? The denial of some people’s ability to live their truth requires an appeal to an outside authority, and “live her truth” can only be true if society recognizes no transcendent authority.
Sadly, society is not going to jettison the concept. Most people would prefer to live out obvious contradictions than submit to an external authority over their life. However, as Christians, it’s our responsibility to confront our friends and family members (and larger society) with the fact that all humans live under the authority of the God of the Bible. Whether they like it or not, all humans will one day answer for how they respond to God’s authority. If “your truth” contradicts what God has revealed in His Word and you live out that “truth,” you are in rebellion against God.
We don’t get to decide what’s true. True religion is not a democracy. To put it bluntly, our Creator is a dictator. All humans need to ask whether they’re going to submit or rebel. Allowing “your truth” to be the deciding factor in how you live your life or what you believe is a nonsensical act of rebellion.
Anderson’s sister may be happy, but that doesn’t mean that her marriage isn’t a rebellion against God. She may be living “her truth,” but that doesn’t mean that her “truth” is in submission to God’s Truth.
I’m going to conclude with a personal anecdote that illustrates God’s goodness as the sovereign authority over all creation, even when we doubt His goodness.
When my daughter was a toddler, we lived in an apartment complex with a rather shabby playground outside of our building. One day, my daughter threw a fit on her way to the car. She didn’t want to get in the car; she wanted to play on the playground. In that moment, her truth, what she believed would make her happy, was playing on that shabby playground. What she didn’t realize is that I was putting her in the car to take her to the zoo and the awesome playground in the park adjacent to the zoo.
Parents are metaphors that are tasked with pointing children to God the Father. Make no mistake, all of humanity is represented by my toddler daughter in that example. Our finiteness and our sin prevent us from having trustworthy feelings. Through repentance of sins and faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we need to submit our feelings and “truth” to God’s objective standards.