We can embellish it, spin it, or stretch it. We may run from it or hide from it, but our response to the truth doesn’t change the truth. Courts ask us to “Swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” because too often we try to make the truth into something it is not.

 Most of us have a problem with the truth. We want to embrace the “truth” that supports what we want to think and dismiss any evidence that might prove us wrong. We disdain those who disagree with our version of the truth, and have turned every issue into an “us” and “them” predicament. We are far less interested in actually knowing the whole truth than we are in proving our enemies wrong. When we sublimate the truth to winning the argument, we become the ones who embellish it, spin it and stretch it. Ignorance is no excuse; neither is arrogance.

Never has our nation been so sharply divided as now. In politics, race relations, morality, and religion, there is an increasing polarization of opinions. We argue about everything from financial strategies to educational reform to foreign policy. Both sides of every issue assume that they have the truth, and those who disagree with them are uninformed or malicious. Both sides of every issue seem far more likely to attack each other than to seek the whole truth and work for common good.

When did different ideas become mutually exclusive? Where is the line between what is non-negotiable and a different perspective? Can Democrats be just a right about helping the poor as Republicans are about enabling people to rise out of poverty? Is there a need to protect the right to free speech of all people, including the ones who disagree with what is politically correct? Can we recognize the flaws of institutions and people we like? Can we honor the goals of those who don’t share our priorities?

Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) What do we have to learn before we will actually “know the truth”? What will knowing the truth set us free from? What does it look like to fight for the truth?

I suspect the whole truth is far more about understanding ALL the facts than it is about destroying those with whom we disagree. The truth just is. We can’t change it. But if we truly want to find it, I suspect we will find ourselves in the company of people we respect, even when we don’t agree.