Straight from the Hartsock: Literal Interpretations

A Period of rest usually brings renewal to our lives. Over spring break, I had the pleasure of a quiet stay at a lake house with my family. The last night of our stay, six of us stayed up latetwo Christians, one Atheist, two agnostics, and one who believed she should have been born as a Hinduand discussed the ways and means of religious influence, how they impact what we believe to be truth and fact, and how they differ from each other.

A bit nervous to open up to my family, a very inspirational and intelligent person, Eric Sloss, a duel-enrolled LB and OSU junior, conveyed the following opinion:

What is truth, and what is fact?

To me, the two are different things: while all facts are true, not all truths are fact. I’ll try to illustrate this a little bit more. You can learn a lot of truths about life from various myths, legends, and rumors—things that aren’t necessarily facts. To me, fiction is the most powerful agent in communicating ultimate truths about reality.

The line between the two—facts and truths—is often blurred. This is not the case in Hinduism, which acknowledges that depictions of God are not factual representations of what God actually looks like. Similarly, Hindus consciously construct fictional stories, which they know are not factual historical accounts, to draw the reader to larger truths about reality and life.

As far as I can tell, the line between fact and truth is largely uncertain, or possibly inexistent, in modern interpretations of the Bible. The types of physics-defying miracles performed by Jesus Christ in the New Testament are present in many Eastern legends and stories, but there is one very important question to ask: did these miracles actually occur?

Hindus might say, “No, but they illustrate the power of the divine,” but Christians might say, “Yes, and they are proof of the divine’s power.”

These are two very different takes on each religions’ holy texts, and I feel that the Western take can lead to a lot of unneeded confusion. If everyone were to look at the stories within the Bible as tall-tales which contain moral lessons to live by, I don’t feel like Christianity would breed radical fundamentalism (and all of its nasty, violent, side effects).

As with Gautama Buddha, I feel that Jesus was truly a gift to the world. Both were extremely wise and compassionate people who preached a message that humanity needs to hear and accept into their hearts.

Having said that, I don’t think that Jesus’ message gets any stronger after hearing that he walked on water.

Biblical literalism in modern day can lead to ignorance of science, and also ignorance of other truths in different religions.

At the beginning of winter term, I wrote a Straight from the Hartsock entitled “Enlightenment through Literature“ that asked all of us to open up to other forms of beliefs so that we can find some understanding, and perhaps, some truths that enhance our own way of life.

As this term begins, and we’re searching to find ourselves in this modern world, we must still remember that what we view as fact should never limit our ability to see the truth in other forms of thought, lifestyle, and religious teachings.

Love and understanding, my friends, is the pathway to liberation. It is the way to peace.

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not” – Neil Gaiman.

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