When Oprah won the Cecil B Demille award back in 2017 she gave a speech commentators would later call “Presidential.” The crowd gave the lady dubbed the “Queen of All Media” a standing ovation and rousing applause. One noteworthy feature of that speech was she encouraged everyone to “speak your truth.” When the most influential woman in the world uses language like that, watch out! Something important is happening.
As 2017 was the year the #metoo movement went mainstream, I think what she meant to do is get people to tell their personal story, and let others know your perspective, but the language of “your truth” and “my truth” is worth reflecting on. What is “your” and “my” doing in such a phrase? Don’t you want to speak and hear about the truth?
The truth is the use of “your” and “my” here is leaning into postmodernism, a philosophy that contends there is no absolute truth, only relative truth.
If postmodernism is correct, it basically means that all dogma is dogmeat. Every perspective is just one sound in a cacophony that no one can make sense of. There are no symphonies that reconcile one noise with another. It would mean we were all equally afloat in a world of ideas, anchored to nothing (not even logic). All the big stories we tell ourselves to make sense of ourselves; our origin, meaning, value and destiny, these are just fairytales, unconnected to a larger reality – because there is no reality outside what you perceive.
A related idea is moral relativism from the movement that preceded postmodernism (modernism). This is the idea that moral values and duties vary from person to person or culture to culture, and that there are no objective answers in the realm of right and wrong, good and bad. Moral relativism says morals aren’t discovered, you invent your own. People may say “that’s true for you, but it’s not true for me.” That’s something people say when they’re uncomfortable with someone’s moral and religious ideas. That’s moral relativism. Postmodernism expands that relativism to everything, even literature and science.
What this means for Christianity is that it is reduced from the answer, to merely an answer. Other world views would be equally true, and equally false insofar as they thought they provided the best understanding of the world. “The way” wouldn’t be the one way anymore, but instead one of many ways that are equally valid. We wouldn’t be preaching the good news anymore, nor would we expect the lost to stop following after things that were false, we would simply tell our stories and invite others to share in it.
Fortunately, we don’t have to buy it. Postmodernism is a profoundly flawed idea. Think about it. Is there a world outside your mind that you can be either right or wrong about? Of course there is! And deep down, professing postmodern’s believe it too. No one thinks the meaning of a text is relative when “Caution: Rat Poison” is on the label and your life is on the line. In short, the philosophy unliveable.
Also, is it true that all truth is relative? If the answer is no, then there are absolutes. If the answer is yes, then there is an absolute. Either way you answer the question, the answer comes out as a denial of postmodern theory, showing the existence of truth is actually undeniable. Things that are actually undeniable are necessarily false. That is, they cannot possibly be true. So it fails its own test. Postmodernists ignore this logical contradiction inherent in their philosophy. Logic, they say, is a play for power by western thinkers.
But if there are no big picture stories, why does the postmodern theorist keep painting a big picture story about logic and truth? Postmodernism ties itself up in its own twisted knot. By its own account, postmodernism cannot possibly describe the truth that’s true for all.
So next time someone says “tell me your truth,” start telling your story knowing it’s the truth, not just for you but for all. Next time someone says “this is my truth,” listen closely to see if it really is true, because if it is it’s true for you as well.