I have a friend who is a Cedarville alumnus, one who has been particularly distraught over the school’s recent penchant for stirring up controversy and getting in the news for firing tenured professors and a string of oddly timed and mysterious resignations of senior leadership.
The latest person to be mailed the proverbial pink slip is Dr. Carl Ruby. I am not well acquainted with Cedarville or its leadership, but I have spoken to Carl Ruby once, on the phone. After the dust up a few years back over the uninviting of Shane Claiborne from Cedarville, I had made a comment about it in a blog conversation that quickly got overheated. My comments, in my mind, were misinterpreted. That’s when Carl Ruby asked to take the conversation offline and talk in person. He wanted to rise above the chaff and hear the truth behind my words (in the end, the misunderstanding revolved around the fact that the phrase “thrown under the bus” was not yet known to midwesterners, a fact that is hilarious in hindsight).
Carl Ruby just wanted the truth, but it appears we may or may not ever know the truth behind Ruby’s sudden departure from an institution where he is revered. He, at his resignation, is believed to have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), which means, almost certainly, that his severance package is contingent on him keeping mum about what is going on behind closed doors at that Baptist institution. Or, to put it more bluntly, Ruby only gets the money he rightly deserves if the truth never, ever comes out (for a time specified in the NDA, if Cedarville’s general counsel is worth their salt).
At my old job I used to work with and sign NDAs on a daily basis. I worked with confidential information and I was assuring my employer that I would mot divulge any of it to inform competitors, do insider trading or the like. That is a warranted use of an NDA. But using an NDA at the time of someone’s resignation is also common, as a legal way to buy someone’s silence. This is a symptom of our culture, but is it one that Christians should use? Whatever happened to the truth setting you free? Instead, as is more and more common in Christian circles, when something sinful, unethical or untidy happens, the truth does not set you free, your silence does. And that, my friends is about a poor of witness as you can find, to cast something in shadow and darkness before a an already dark world.
Truth is vital to the Christian faith because it is not only what we center our whole faith and practice on—”I am the way, the truth, and the life”—it is what sanctifies us, corrects us, instructs us and pushes us to show the light of Christ to all through word and deed. What is confession but an acceptance of truth? What is evangelism but the proclamation of truth? What is love, mercy, grace or justice but truth put into action?
We, as Christians, are a people of truth. Truth is our way and life. The more we become like the world, and deal in shadow, silence and darkness, the less our light shines. Yes, that may mean that we expose the ugliness of ourselves, it may mean we become transparent about clergy abuse, colonialism, slavery or our hand in gross injustice, but how else can we function as a people of God unless the truth, however painfully, sets us free to live in the blessed assurance of the Trinity?
We, as a missional people, must be known as a truth telling people in our communities. We, as a confessing people, must be known as a truth telling people whenever we sin. We, as a sanctified people, must be made whole by the truth of God and the light it shines within us to burn away our sinfulness. We, as a Christian people, must be known as people who are living a life of truth, in word and deed. There is no other way to live the Christian life. The truth must set us free.