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Jonathan Pait
June 19, 2001

Greenville is quickly becoming more enlightened. Of course, being enlightened means that you have come to the realization that truth is so much larger than we can fathom. No one can know truth. We can only experience truth as it intersects with our own experiences. Therefore, what is right or wrong to one person can be the direct opposite of what is right or wrong to another. Enlightenment comes from the realization that both are right.

At least that is what Rabbi Marc Howard Wilson would have us believe according to his regular article found in Greenville Magazine. He compares our search for truth as “blind men trying to surmise the appearance of an elephant by touching only one of its parts. Trunk and tail feel so different that we are led to profoundly differing conclusions.”

His article expresses his frustration with trying to deal with the unenlightened fundamentalists of all faiths—but it is clear that his primary concern is with those not only unenlightened but also arrogant Christian fundamentalists. These people who claim that truth can be known. Who claim that people do not have to grope blindly around the extremities of an elephant. It is arrogant for them to claim that one can know God and how God thinks by reading and believing His revelation to man—the Bible. How arrogant and close-minded it is to claim that there is indeed an ultimate or absolute truth.

The Rabbi’s error comes in assuming that these fundamentalists have arrived at this conclusion out of some desire to find, as he says, “delight, either privately or publicly, in being exclusively right.” Truth is not within man. No amount of self-actualization or “finding of oneself” will expose truth to man. A man in search of truth and meaning within himself is like a pilot of a ship seeking to navigate the Atlantic by rummaging around in the hold for coordinates. It is the pilot who takes time to study the stars and uses the sextant to find a solid point of reference with which to guide his craft who will reach harbor.

No, it is not the fundamentalist who is arrogant. It is God who claims that there is absolute truth. The Christian fundamentalist simply says that what God has revealed in the Bible is Truth. Jesus Christ never said, “There are many ways to God, but I hope you will choose to come my way.” No, He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The fundamentalist is not arrogant; he is humbled before God. He is compelled to say that Christ is the only way to Heaven because God said it is so. He could only be arrogant if he said, “Hey, this is the way it is because I said it is.”

The Rabbi laments that each time an enlightened soul attempts to introduce an alternative view of community mores and standards the intolerant and exclusive segments of the community rise up to divide “the saved from the damned, the included and the excluded, those who arrogate to themselves the role of God’s exclusive mouthpiece and those who humble themselves before God’s call.” He longs for the day when “fellowship and lively debate revolve around the symmetry of mutual respect and honor of diversity.”

Well, that is one of the purposes of The Greenville Common Voice. The editor admits that he is one of those “arrogant fundamentalists.” However, the good Rabbi can feel free to submit as many discourses to this site as he might wish. It should be understood that Christian fundamentalists value highly the rights of individuals to hold that they have a corner on truth. They respect people who disagree with them, but they cannot compromise on what they believe.

Here lies the crux of the matter. America is strong because people with diverse viewpoints and cultures have been able to coexist respecting those who disagree. We have not always succeeded but for the most part the expression of ideas was not maligned and either compromise or the segmenting of interests brought community consensus. The concept is called Federalism.

Things have certainly changed. Now, compromise is the order of the day. The coming together of people of like mind to form sub-communities that interact with other sub-communities for common needs flies in the face of the holy grail of what is now called diversity. More than that, the mere expression of ideas is considered unpatriotic and destructive to the community. True diversity is destroyed. Diversity has become conformity to a common belief in nothing.

If that is enlightenment, may Greenville enter the Dark Ages.

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