CHURCHES: Post-truth in an uncertain world

Littlehampton Churches Together
Littlehampton Churches Together

Post-truth was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016 and heralded as the International Word of the Year on both sides of the Atlantic.

At first glance it seems like an oxymoron – but it is, perhaps, interesting to reflect on the meaning of this new word and then to explore it in a spiritual context.

The English dictionary definition is that ‘post-truth’ is ‘debate based on passion and emotion, rather than reason and evidence’.

Maybe it is good to be sceptical about facts presented as absolute truths.

Factual evidence may be an important factor in deciding the truth about anything, but most evidence-based facts are based on probabilities in the context of current understanding.

There seems plenty of room for perceiving a truth with both the head and the heart.

In a spiritual context, there is also plenty of room for uncertainty about ‘the truth’.

The very words ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ suggest that.

When I first went to a Quaker meeting in Littlehampton I said to an elder: “I’m not sure why I’m here because I don’t believe in ‘God’ as presented in my childhood and I have more questions than answers.”

The response was: “Questions are good; we are all seekers of the Truth.”

The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are better known, have a useful book of writings by a great many people from its beginnings as a spiritual movement in the 17th century to the present day.

The book’s title is ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’.

In a section entitled Perceptions of Truth, a Friend, Charles Carter has written the following from his own experience:

“True faith is not assurance, but the readiness to go forward experimentally, without assurance. It is a sensitivity to things not yet known.

“Quakerism should not claim to be a religion of certainty, but a religion of uncertainty; it is this which gives us our special affinity to the world of science.

“For what we apprehend of truth is limited and partial, and experience may set it in a new light; if we too easily satisfy our urge for security by claiming that we have found certainty, we shall no longer be sensitive to new experiences of truth.

“For who seeks that which he or she believes that they have found? Who explores a territory which one claims already to know?”

Quakers’ roots are Christian but there is no set creed.

Not every Quaker is comfortable with the concept of God, some preferring to use words like the ‘Spirit’ or ‘Light’.

A core belief, however, is that there is that of God or the Spirit within every living being; and it is by waiting quietly that we can receive guidance about how to live.

‘Let your life speak’ is a fundamental tenet of Quakerism, as it is for all godly people; in other words, it is more important what you do than what you say.

And what seems important to do is live a life that is peaceful, simple, honest, equitable and sensitive to new experiences of truth.

Richard Marler

Littlehampton Quakers


Upcoming events

• Littlehampton Quakers is holding a coffee morning at Friends Meeting House, Church Street, on Saturday, April 1, from 10.30am to midday. Proceeds to Oxfam for famine relief. All welcome.

• A presentation on The Art of Easter by Val Woodgate (Tate and NADFAS lecturer and occasional speaker at Pallant House) on Saturday, April 1, from 2.15pm to 4.15pm, at Rustington Methodist Church, Claigmar Road. Light refreshments provided. Free entry – retiring collection.

• Holiday at Home’ event: Exploring Wales. DVD, refreshments and craft. OAPs welcome. Wednesday, April 5, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm at Parkside Church, St Flora’s Road.

• Midweek Meeting for lunch: Wednesdays, 12.30pm to 1.30pm, starting April 19 at Friends Meeting House, Church Street, Littlehampton. Bring your lunch to share with others. Tea and coffee are provided. ‘Thought for the week’ discussion and moments of quiet. A friendly lunchtime chat in a peaceful place.

• A free, seven-week ‘Life Explored’ course starts on Friday, April 28, at 7.30pm at Parkside Church, St Flora’s Road. A chance for Christians and non-Christians to explore the meaning of life. All welcome


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