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Truth, Lies, Reconciliation, and the Church in North America

Research by
Catherine Morris

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Raised to date: $2855 fundraising
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Abstract and link to chapter | Conference | About Catherine

Peacemakers Trust director, Catherine Morris, was invited to provide a paper for an academic conference on "Reconciliation: Christian Perspectives – Interdisciplinary Approaches" at Forum Wiedenest, Bergneustadt, Germany, 30-31 August 2017. Her paper was published in 2020 as:

Research needed for revision this paper has been conducted under the auspices of an unfunded Community Sabbatical Fellowship with the University of Victoria Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS).

Abstract of Catherine's essay:

Noble Lies, Augustinian Lies and the Post-Modernist Black Hole: Truth, Reconciliation and the Church

The text of Psalms 85:10-11 provides striking metaphors for the biblical concept of shalom: "Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed." Accordingly, this essay proposes a framework for reconciliation that recognizes truth, justice, forgiveness and peace. The necessity of truth for genuine peace and reconciliation is singled out in light of some North American Christian leaders' engagements with a "post-fact" world. Questions about truth are nothing new. When Jesus told Pilate that he came to testify to truth, Pilate is recorded as retorting: "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38). Have church people adopted Pilate's approach by relegating truth into a post-modernist "black hole"? Have church leaders slipped into blind acceptance of Plato's "noble lie" (sometimes known as propaganda)? Are churches endorsing bare-faced lies of the kind Augustine and Aquinas would decry? The essay explores contemporary concerns about truth and lies in light of biblical concepts and statements of Jesus. Drawing on examples from Cambodia, Rwanda, Canada and the United States (US), the essay examines historic Christian church complicity with untruths that subvert reconciliation. The essay concludes with suggestions of ways for churches to engage with truths that foster reconciliation including the tradition of prophetic lament. See the paper.

Catherine Morris

Catherine Morris, BA, JD, LLM, is an independent scholar. At the time of the 2017 conference she was an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Administration at the University of Victoria, Canada. Professor Morris teaches negotiation, dispute resolution, peacebuilding and international human rights in academic, governmental and non-governmental settings. She is also the managing director of Peacemakers Trust, a non-profit organization for research and education on peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Her international work has also included assignments in Thailand (since 1994), Cambodia (since 1995), Honduras, Myanmar, Bolivia, Rwanda and Europe. Her publications and papers include works on dispute resolution, international human rights, religion and peacebuilding and reconciliation.

Conference on "Reconciliation: Christian Perspectives – Interdisciplinary Approaches," Forum Wiedenest, Bergneustadt, Germany, 30-31 August 2017.

The Conference was co-sponsored by:

photo © Lois Pegg
photo © Lois Pegg

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