“Many of our young people are uprooted. They no longer believe in the traditions of their parents and grandparents, and they have not found anything else to replace them. Spiritual leaders need to address this very real issue, but most simply to not know what to do…when a priest does not embody the living values of a tradition, he or she cannot transmit them to the next generation. He can only wear the outer garments and pass along the superficial forms. When the living values are absent, rituals and dogmas are lifeless, rigid, and even oppressive…Many young people all over the world have abandoned their church because church leaders have not caught up with the changes in society. They cannot speak to the youth people in the kind of language the young can understand…That is why so many young people are left with nothing to believe in. They feel uneasy with their church, their society, their culture, and their family. They don’t see anything worthwhile, beautiful, or true.”
Thoughts on where this came from? Some Emergent book? Perhaps Postmodern Youth Ministry? Nope. The above quote comes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Living Buddha, Living Christ. There is definitely truth in that quote, and in much of what Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen master, writes in this book.
Recently, someone asked why I wrote the word “Truth” like this: T(t)ruth. Below is my explanation:
T(t)ruth. There is only one Truth, and that is Jesus. I think that many people may be interested in truth, but may not yet be ready for Truth(Jesus). So, what do we say? You have to come to Truth first before anything else? Are there any truths apart from Christ? My gut reaction, having grown up in the conservative Evangelical Christian culture, is to say no. But, I think that God’s truth can be found in many surpring places. I’m currently reading Living Buddha, Living Christ (written by Thich Nhat Hanh) and he quotes extensively from Jesus’ sayings and shares thoughts on social justice, peace, etc. Many of his thoughts are very true in fact. But, does he understand Jesus to be Truth in the same way I do – probably not. Throughout their journeys, I believe some people may first be drawn to truths, before encountering the One Truth, Jesus.
The true way is just the opposite: the more I am able to affirm others, to say “yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone. I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further. So, too, with the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, etc. This does not mean syncretism, indifferentism, the vapid and careless friendliness that accepts everything by thinking of nothing. There is much that one cannot “affirm” and “accept” but first one must say “yes” where one really can. If I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it.
I’m not a Catholic, but I am still able to agree with the heart of Merton’s argument. Self-assured, theologically perfect, “I have all the answers” people are not the easiest ones to get along with. More than that, they tend to lose their “individualism” somewhere in the midst of their narrow-minded attitudes, and make others want to stubbornly retain their opinions if only to be unlike the hypocrites. It’s all too familiar. Instead, we find that unity comes through recognizing differences, not through homogenization. If we try to make others like ourselves, or make ourselves like others, we end up with a mess rather than a paragon.
Thoughts on Truth, truth, T(t)ruth?